Monthly Archives: June, 2014

I Ain’t Lucky!

Sometimes a paraphrase hits a homerun.  Sometimes a paraphrase hits a foul ball.  Here’s an example on one such foul ball.

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
    you get a fresh start,
    your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—
    God holds nothing against you
    and you’re holding nothing back from him.

Now consider this passage from a literal translation of the Bible:

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

I trust you noticed the difference.  For some unfortunate reason, Eugene Peterson choose to employ the word “lucky” for the more accurate rendering “blessed.”*

That decision makes a world of difference!

Luck (as if it existed) “just happens” to someone.  Blessing indicates that an outside force provided relief or reward to an individual.

Now meditate on the context of this psalm. David is rejoicing that this heinous sins had been forgiven. His transgression had been covered.  God had been gracious.  Luck was nowhere to be found in the equation.

As I studied this today, I found the following helpful article written by Stephen J. Cole.  He hit a homerun with these words:

Psalm 32 begins just as Psalm 1 does‑‑with a plural which might be rendered: “Oh the happinesses ….” The Living Bible puts it: “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.”

There are many blessings or happinesses for the person who experiences God’s forgiveness. Here are four:

A. The blessing of a clean conscience (32:1‑2).

David uses four Hebrew words for sin and three words for forgiveness which help us understand what it means to have a clean conscience before God.

Words for sin:

(1) “Transgression” = Rebellion, refusing to submit to rightful authority. God has ordained certain limits for human behavior for our good and the good of society. When we go against those limits, we transgress; we refuse to be subject to God’s rightful authority in our lives.

(2) “Sin” = To miss the mark. While transgression looks at the violation of a known law, sin looks at a coming short of that aim which God intended for us to reach.

(3) “Iniquity” (NIV, “sin”) = from a word meaning bent or twisted. It has the nuance of perverting that which is right, of erring from the way. Any time you have done something crooked you have committed iniquity.

(4) “Deceit” = deliberate cover‑up, falsehood, hypocrisy. Trying to present a false front so that you look good even when you know you’re not.

Those words for sin condemn us all as guilty before God. But David’s words for forgiveness show us what it means to have a clean conscience before God.

Words for forgiveness:

(1) “Forgiven” = To bear, carry off, or take away a burden. Our sin is a burden which God Himself bears or takes away. You are all familiar with the term “scapegoat.” A scapegoat takes the blame and everyone else goes free. The term comes from the Hebrew sacrificial system. The high priest would select a goat, lay his hands on its head and confess the sins of the people, thereby, in ceremonial fashion, putting their sins on the goat. The animal was then sent into the wilderness as a picture of how God carried their sins away from Himself.

The sacrificial system pointed ahead to Jesus Christ. He was the perfect and final scapegoat for sins. He bore our sins away once for all, so that when we put our trust in what Jesus did on the cross, our sins are gone.

(2) “Covered” = Out of sight. God puts our sins out of His sight, which means He will never bring up our sins as a matter of judgment between Him and us. If we’re in Christ, our sins are covered by His blood!

(3) “Not counted” (“impute,” NASB) = Not charged to our account. This is the verb used of God’s dealings with Abraham: “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned (credited) it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). As Paul argues, this is the righteousness which comes from faith alone, not from works (Rom. 4:5‑8).

It’s as if I had run up a million dollar charge account bill at a department store and I didn’t have $10 to my name. There is no way I can pay the debt. But the store informs me that the charge number on my card actually charged the debt to another man’s account, and that he was a multi‑millionaire and was willing to pay it on my behalf. That’s what God has done for us in Christ. We owed an unpayable debt for our sin. But Christ paid it on the cross. When we trust in what He did, God credits our account paid in full and even adds the righteousness of Christ to our account!

Martin Luther said, “Sin has but two places where it may be; either it may be with you, so that it lies upon your neck, or upon Christ, the Lamb of God. If now it lies upon your neck, you are lost; if, however, it lies upon Christ, you are free and will be saved.” If your sin is upon Christ, you enjoy the blessing of a clean conscience.

[Stephen J. Cole, Psalm 32: The Blessings of Forgiveness, 1993, Bible.org, Reprinted with permission.]

https://bible.org/seriespage/psalm-32-blessings-forgiveness

As I meditate upon those words, I, like David, find myself blessed.  I am happy.  God did for me what I could not do for myself.  The Lord accomplished for me what He alone could do and I am blessed today and for an eternity.  I am a recipient of His amazing grace.  Luck was nowhere to be found in the equation.

*If you follow my blog, you will find I often praise Peterson for his choice of passage renderings.  The Message has often encouraged me in my walk with the Lord and I would strongly encourage you to purchase a copy or read it on a website such as http://www.biblegateway.com.

 

 

 

God spoke to me the other day

It was Sunday morning.  I woke up a bit early and thought about sipping coffee and reading the Bible.  When I asked myself the following question, I was surprised at how quickly the answer came to my mind.

The Question:  What portion of Scripture should I read today?

The Answer:  Exodus 32.

Well, the kids woke up and before long it was time to head to church.  I had forgotten about Exodus 32; that is until it was time for the Scripture reading during church.  Can you guess what was the morning’s passage?  Yep–Exodus 32.

I had to chuckle.

Sometimes God chooses to make Himself very clear.  He wanted to draw my attention to this important passage of the Bible.

But why?

That was my mission.  What was God wanting to communicate to me?  I wasn’t in the process of making an idol out of gold.  I haven’t been “playing” inappropriately.  Nor can I envision myself at the foot of the mountain with the Israelites committing these heinous sins against the Lord.

Then I saw the message.

“Then Moses said, ‘Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD–for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today'” (32:29).

Dedicate myself to the LORD.

I scoured the entire chapter making sure that that was indeed the message.  It was.  God was choosing to remind me afresh that the life which is most pleasing to Him is one of dedication.

In my study that morning, I was drawn to another passage of historical significance: Joshua, chapter three.  The nation was preparing to enter the Promised Land.  In fact, they were standing in front of the Jordan River.  God’s promise to Abram so many years earlier was on the verge of fulfillment.  Joshua’s words at such a time were timely:

“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you'” (3:5).

Did  you notice how this verse in Joshua compliments the passage in Exodus?  Moses exhorted the nation with the message that dedication precedes blessing.  Joshua informed the people that miracles accompany consecration.

Do you want to be blessed by God?  Do you want to see His wonder-working power in your life and in the lives of those around you?  I sure do!  That’s why I asked myself these next logical questions:  What does dedication look like?  How do I consecrate myself?

The Apostle Peter provided me with my answers.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Pet. 1:14-16).

Those capitalized words are a quote from Leviticus, chapter eleven.  As I share the words from that context, you will see how this concept of holiness found its way into my thought-process on Sunday.

“‘For I am the LORD your God, Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy for I am holy'” (11:44).

Consecration is connected to holiness.  And holiness is a disconnection from that which is not pure.  In the context of Leviticus and the ceremonial law, Israel was to refrain from eating that which was unclean (“any  of the swarming things that swarm on the earth”).  As expected, however, the Apostle Peter applied the principle in an entirely different manner.  His point is poignant, and maybe it was exactly what I needed to hear on a hot summer morning.

It’s a point repeated in Scripture.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

The LORD does not want me to return to my “former lusts” (1 Pet. 1:14).  Peter was correct.  I was “ignorant.”  I daily indulged in the desires of the flesh and of the mind, proving myself to be a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  That’s the Tim I used to be.  That’s not the Tim that I am today.

God knows that too.  He was there every step of the way.  Every working-out-my-salvation-action I took was taken in His at-work-within-me-strength (Phil. 2:12, 13).

I am not what I once was.  Praise God.  But I am not what I shall be.  The process of my sanctification is on-going and I believe God wanted to remind me to be an active participant in the glorious event of my conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  The Lord doesn’t want me to go backwards in my spiritual life.  He desires that I move forward.  He doesn’t want me conformed to this fallen world.  His plan is that I be transformed by the truth of His Word.

So this Sunday, He spoke to me.  And maybe–just maybe–He is speaking to you as well.

 

 

My Heart Problem

I have a heart problem and no prescription or physical exercise is going to remedy the situation.

I am, of course, speaking spiritually, not physically.  Physically I probably actually have a heart flutter now.  But whatever issue I have been experiencing with my physical heart isn’t as concerning to me as to what has been happening  with my spiritual heart.

Is my transparency making you feel uncomfortable?  Be glad you are not walking in my shoes.  But maybe you are.  And maybe this admission will help you in your spiritual journey.

When did you lose some of your passion?  Can your pin point the event or series of events which led to your zeal for Christ and the things of Christ beginning to diminish?  I think I can. My heat was first dampened while we still lived in Las Vegas.  A couple of years ago another experience caused me again to walk two steps backwards for every one step forward.  The day-in-day-out reality of living paycheck to paycheck has taken a toll. Part of my issue is surely related to the health issues I have had over the past several years.  On this side of  glory, there is definitely a connection between the physical and the spiritual.

But aren’t these simply excuses for spiritual slothfulness?

Perhaps.

Or, is it possible to experience declension in your spiritual life while still trying to  pursue both an objective and subjective relationship with the Lord?

Honestly, I think both are probably true of me.  I’ve been a bit slothful.  And, I have also been striving to renew my mind through times in God’s Word and by listening to sermons by men who  are faithfully serving Christ.  In other words, while I have not chosen to personally pursue my relationship with Jesus with fervor I once had, I have labored to set my mind on things above.  Furthermore, I have attempted to honor Him in my private and public life.  I even still pray, believing that God both hears and answers the prayers of His people.

You might ask: So, why are you concerned?

I know my heart.

I remember the heat.  My mind recalls the vigor I had as a young believer while I was at Bryan College.  Then I think back to how I sought the Lord with energy during my first several years of pastoral ministry.

“For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival” (Ps. 42:4).

If those words are not familiar to you, allow me to describe the context.  The author is experiencing a form of spiritual despair.  He is discouraged when he considers both the internal and external.  In the verse above, he is admitting his internal struggle.  Later, he will recount the external situation causing him distress.  In short, it was a difficult time.  He was not where he once was. He was not where he wanted to be.

And that’s when he began to talk to himself.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence” (Ps. 42:5).

I love how he isn’t afraid to admit that he is struggling.  I also appreciate the fact that he actually knows the cure for what ails him.  That is true of me.  It’s probably true of you.

Hope is medicinal.

The events of life which come sifted through the hands of Providence can wear us down.  The challenges we face and the failures we experience can leave us exhausted on every level.  Hope fades. Joy flees.  We lose the will to fight. But fight is what we must do.  We must fight the good fight.

“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12).

In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul equates the good fight with keeping the faith.  He fought.  He believed.  He kept fighting.  He kept believing.  He fought to the end.  He believed to the end.  Victory!

Do you envision the Apostle Paul facing his execution with hope?  Do you imagine that he possessed joy as he transitioned from life on earth to life in glory!  You know that he did!

Isn’t that what you want to do as well?  I sure do!  So the fight continues.  Faith continues.  Hope continues.  And when it fades, I, too, preach to myself.  If you are struggling a bit at this particular period of your life as I am, join me in the preaching:

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence” (Ps. 42:5).

 

4G – Our Summer 2014 Famiy Theme

I introduced our Summer 2014 family theme tonight:

4G

For the next three months we will focus on this new theme.  I’ll be teaching the children through the Scriptures, and they will be doing projects to remind us all of 4G!

And–by 4G I mean:

Give grace.
Grieve not.
Get rid.
Go kind.

These four emphases are found in the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians.

GIVE GRACE
Eph 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

GRIEVE NOT
Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

GET RID
Eph 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

GO KIND
Eph 4:32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Last summer we challenged one another to BEND LOW-BUILD HIGH.  We wanted to better learn to serve one another and build each other up with our words.  This year our hope is to focus on our relationships vertical (with God) and horizontal (with each other).  Although I am not assuming any of my children are Christians, I am going to be illustrating what genuine Christianity looks like.  And hopefully–since more is caught than taught–they will see some of that in me!  Hopefully they have seen 4G already in action in our lives to some extent!

Would you pray that God might use 4G in all of our lives?  Thanks!

I’ll let you know how it went on Labor Day, including the posting of pictures of their completed projects.  They have already begun brainstorming!