Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Holy

What heart could hold the weight of Your love
And know the heights of Your great worth
What eyes could look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun



You are holy, holy, holy
God most high and God most worthy
You are holy, holy, holy
Jesus, You are
Jesus, You are

Your name alone has power to raise us
Your light will shine when all else fades
Our eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You, God?

You are holy, holy, holy
God most high and God most worthy
You are holy, holy, holy
Jesus, You are
Jesus, You are

Who shall we say You are
You're the living God
Who shall we say You are
You're the Great I AM
The highest name of all
You're all You say You are

You are holy, holy, holy
God most high and God most worthy
You are holy, holy, holy
Jesus, You are
Jesus, You are

And You shall come again in glory
To judge the living and the dead
All eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You, God? (Matt Redman)



Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 30, 2012

Find Life There

Last night Heather and I read this in the Valley of Vision:

May I be always amongst those who not only hear but know thee,
who walk with and rejoice in thee,
who take thee at thy word and find life there.

The last line really struck me as something I struggle with at times.  How many times do I question God rather than submitting to his Word?  It is often because I see the depravity of my heart.  What really happens when we neglect to be obedient to God's Word we find death.  Sounds crazy until we see that only in God do we find life.  Trusting in God requires knowing him and clinging to his promises.  It is in trusting his promises that life is found.  Too often we think they are holding us back when in all reality we are running from life.  May we be people who not only hear the word but know the Lord trusting that in him we find life.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 27, 2012

To Whom Belong Wisdom and Might


“To whom belong wisdom and might” (Daniel 2:20)

Have you ever had one of those days or weeks where you wonder what God is doing?  It is the time when you have to constantly remind yourself of his sovereignty over all of life. We thought we had everything taken care of but had other plans.  The good news is they are better plans.  God always has the best plans because he is the One “to whom belong wisdom and might.”

J.I. Packer defines wisdom as “the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.”  While we sit dazed and confused about what God is doing in our lives, we can rest assured that he has the best and highest goal in mind.  He is working all his plans according to his wisdom, not ours.  We have a short sighted view as to why life should work the way we think it should work.  But God as an infinite view of life which spans our entire existence that he is working out for our good and his glory.  The wisest thing we can do is trust that this is true.  He is also the only One with the power to see and choose those surest means of attaining the goal.  Power and wisdom go hand and hand.  Packer says, “Wisdom without power would be pathetic, a broken reed; power without wisdom would be merely frightening; but in God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust.”

The question for us is do we trust him?

What is revealed about our hearts when these times of crisis come into our lives is the fact that we really thought that we had things in control.  In my own life in see this because right away I want to fix the problems.  We turn into mystery solving trying to piece everything together to fit into the idea of how things should be in life.  But God is trying to teach us about his sovereignty.  He wants us to see that he had everything in control before the crisis and he is in control during the crisis.  He wants us to trust his character.  He wants us to see that wisdom is wiser and is power is stronger than our own.  This isn’t easy because we never see the end result until God says it is time to see the end result.  We may not get it during the crisis but when it is through there are so many things to look back on and praise God for his work.  It is amazing that he always has the best and highest goals in mind. 

Trust him.  It is that simple yet so hard at times.  We need to trust his character.  Sadly the reason most of us do not trust him is because of our lack of knowing him.  We need to be people of the Word.  He left us the Scriptures for the purpose of knowing him.  He sent his Son to die for the purpose of knowing him.  “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life…And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 3:16; 17:3).  It is hard to trust someone we do not know.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Know God

“What were we made for? To know God.

What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God.

What is the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. ‘This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (John 17:3)

What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. ‘This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and know me” (Jer. 9:23-24).

What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. ‘I desired…the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,’ says God (Hos. 6:6)

In these few sentences we have said a very great deal. Our point is one to which every Christian heart will warm, though the person whose religion is merely formal will not be moved by it. (And by this very fact his unregenerate state may be known). What we have said provides at once a foundation, shape and goal for our lives, plus a principle of priorities and a scale of value.

Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hell-Deserving Sinners

Another great blog which focuses upon the gospel of Jesus Christ is Of First Importance.  If you do not follow this blog I would encourage you to do so.  This was on the blog the other day and I thought these were great words from John Stott:

All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell–deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Children of God

Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

We are the saints
We are the children
We've been redeemed
We've been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God (Third Day)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 20, 2012

The LORD also has put away your Sin

"The LORD also has put away your sin" (2 Samuel 12:13)

These are the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Nathan.  These were great words of comfort to the soul of king David.  David had just committed adultery with Bathsheba.  Then he had her husband killed in the war when he commanded Joab to place Uriah at the front of battle and withdraw the other men.  These were selfish days for David.  He no longer saw God as all-glorious because his sin had blinded him.  But God lavished his grace upon him through the prophet Nathan.

Have you ever doubted the grace of God?  Maybe sin has had a grip upon you and you think God is no where to be found.  Or maybe sin has a grip on you and you don't want God around.  Maybe you are content in or enjoying your sin.  Perhaps you love the sin and no longer feel as if God can satisfy your soul.  These are troublesome days if this is true of your life.  If you are his though, he will not let it go long.  God will expose your sin bringing you to repentance and turning you back to him.   He wants your best even if it hurts.  David was no different.  It was said of David that he was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22).  That tends not to register with us after we read a chapter like 2 Samuel 11.  God was still there as David's Savior but David's had not guarded himself against sin.  He really had no accountability from an earthly standpoint either.  Once he got away with one sin, he just kept piling them on until he was at a place where he needed to sin more to cover up his sin.  This was a mess.  But David did not realize how big of mess it actually was at the time.  He was loving his sin while rejecting his God.  

The good news is that God never rejected David.  While David was indulging his flesh, God was grieving over David's sin.  He knew David would never be satisfied with his sin which is why David continued down the trail until God rescued him from himself.  So he sends the prophet Nathan to confront him.  Nathan comes and speaks truth to David using a parable to peel the blinders of David's eyes.  We also see the grace of God in the fact that David was broken over his sin.  David did not try to deny his sin but rather repented saying, "I have sinned against the LORD."  We get even a greater glimpse into David's brokenness over his sin in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot our my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly of my iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. (1-4a)

God had brought his child back to the fountain of life.  He brought David back to drink from the eternal spring which satisfies the soul.  David had a broken spirit and a contrite heart which are the sacrifices of God.  And God spoke through Nathan again saying to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin."  I imagine tears were streaming down the face of David and excitement was welling up in his heart as he heard that he was forgiven of his sin.  

What about us?  Maybe we haven't committed sins like David but we have all sinned.  Worse off, we are all sinners.  This is who we are as humans.  We are all sinners by nature.  Because of Adam we all have the "sinner gene."  There is no escaping this reality.  Maybe we haven't committed sins like David but each of us are capable of it.  In our thoughts and intentions we have all committed these sins.  We must remember that David is not our standard.  If we are better than David or our neighbor or our friends or whoever you want to put on that list, it only means one thing: We are better than those people.  The problem is those people are not the ones who will judge us in the end.  There is a Judge and his name is Jesus.  His standard is perfection.  He demands holiness.  This is a dilemma for all of us from the "good" to the "bad."  

But the good news is that the Judge came to pay our penalty that we deserve.  He came to take our wrath and our sins upon himself.  David could be pardoned and reconciled because of Christ.  We too can be forgiven and reconciled because of Christ.  If your faith is in Christ than you already know about this pardoning.  If sin has gripped you, repent.  Come with your broken heart to the foot of the cross and see your Father's loving arms outstretched ready to embrace you.  If you are not in Christ, repent.  Humbly bow before the Father and ask him to forgive you of you sins.  Place your faith in Christ.  Hear the word of the Lord: "The Lord also has put away your sin."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keep Short Accounts of Sin

In 2 Samuel 12 we see the grace of God in the life of David.  David has spiraled down into depths of sin he probably never imagined could take place in his life.  David had let his guard down in small ways which lead to great sins in his life.  But God showed him grace by sending the prophet Nathan to rebuke him in his sin.  Nathan tells the parable of a rich man, who had herds and flocks of sheep, and a poor man, who had one little ewe lamb.  The rich man had a guest coming into town but did not want to kill one of his own lambs so he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for his guest.  David is enraged and rightfully so, but little does he know the parable is about him.  Nathan clues him in when he says, "You are the man!"  Ouch!
 As I looked at this passage I thought about the way God works in our lives.  He wants us, as his children, to keep short accounts of our sin so that we do not plummet down into our spiritual grave.  Here are three ways in which we can keep short accounts of sin:

1. Know the Bible

In order to know God, what he loves and hates, we must know his Word.  We must let him speak for himself.  Speculation about God will disappear as we get to know him through his Word.  Read Psalm 119.

2. Hear the Bible taught

Be involved with a church that not only teaches the Bible but lives out what its been taught.  We need pastor and people to hold us accountable.  We need pastors who won't tickles our ears but rather confront us with God's truth.  We also need faithful brothers and sisters who will hold us accountable.  

3. Have friends like Nathan

We want to have friends who will help us see our sin.  We want them because we are so often blinded by sin. True friends will tell us the hard things because they know it is best.  They truly love us.  "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Prov. 27:6).  It is never easy to be one of these friends because most of us hate being rebuked.  Rebuke crushes our pride.  But these friends won't stop at telling us about our sin but they will continue on to remind us of the grace of Jesus Christ found at the cross.  They will take us to the gospel and give us the joy of being forgiven sinners.  Nathan did this very thing with David when he said, "The LORD also has put away your sin."  Good friends will tell us bad news but will continue on with the Good News.

Three ways to keep short accounts with sin.  How are you doing in this area?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lord of Patience


Written by Shai Linne and Melissa Thorpe

Heavenly Father, we come to You in the name of Jesus
It's because of His righteousness that we pray You receive this
Lord, you're holy, we shouldn't even be in Your presence
Due to our sin, we don't deserve the least of Your blessings
But through the cross and believing that Jesus is risen
Even the worst of sinners can be redeemed and forgiven
I'm living proof when I say this and these are truthful statements
You're beautiful when displaying Your unusual patience
You take the blasphemous- pridefully stuck in our blindness
Instead of smashing us, decided to love us with kindness
Even with unbelievers facing Your terror, You slow up
Like when You waited patiently in the era of Noah
We know that with You, a day is just like a thousand years
So does that mean for every sin, You cry a thousand tears?
Who can record Your graces? Adored through scores of ages
Your reward is the nations, for You are the Lord of patience

Chorus
Our Sovereign God, You are
The Lord of Patience, yeah
Your wrath, Oh God, we deserve
Christ has taken, yeah

Gracious God, You are
Slow to anger, yeah
You're Lord of patience and
You love us patiently

Lord, we worship You, we know that everything we owe You
And when we reflect on the time before we came to know You
How we were unbelievers committing tons of treason
We had a hundred reasons why we wouldn't come to Jesus
But they were all excuses because our thoughts were useless
That's what the dark produces, Father, You already knew this
We were foolish and clueless, just as ruthless as Judas
Who knew that You would choose to pursue us and move to woo us
So after waiting with patience as we would run from You
You activated our faith so that we would come to You
Your law exposed our sin so that we would know the danger
And take refuge in the Holy Savior who's slow to anger
And as our teary eyes beheld the cross of our King
We understood the true meaning of long-suffering
Who can record Your graces? Adored through scores of ages
Your reward is the nations, for You are the Lord of patience

And now that we're in Christ, the thing that is amazing to us
Is that You still continue to display Your patience to us
Through all our stumbles and falls and our idolatry
Through all our grumbling and all of our hypocrisy
Our self-righteousness, with brothers and sisters we're hostile
Our unforgiveness- all because we're just missing the gospel
We should be slow to anger, but Your Word- we're slow to hear it
Oh Father, help us please! We truly need Your Holy Spirit!
He is the only Person who can shape this fruit within us
We praise the risen Savior who is able to present us
Without an ounce of blame, with zero doubt or shame
Lord Jesus, down You came from heaven to announce Your reign
In the hearts of Your people, and now we have the truth
And gladly choose to praise You for all of Your attributes
Who can record Your graces? Adored through scores of ages
Your reward is the nations, for You are the Lord of patience

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, January 13, 2012

Your Words are True


“Your words are true” (2 Samuel 7:28)

Have you ever considered that God is a God of truth?  All God knows is the truth.  He cannot lie.  The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).  God only speaks truth.  God only knows truth.  I admit it is hard to wrap my mind around this truth because of who I am as a sinner but it is true nonetheless.  The question for us:  Do we believe this is who God is?  Can we echo the words of David, “Your words are true”?

When God promises something he is not blowing smoke.  He is not giving us some pep talk to motivate us to listen to him.  God is clear that what he promises is for the sake of his own glory.  He wants to be praised and magnified through his promises.  Many think this kind of thinking can make God seem arrogant, like he is some egotistic being vainly seeking the praises of others.  This would be true if he were not the highest source of delight and joy.  He would be egotistical if he were not God.  Since he is God and eternal joy and satisfaction can be found in him alone than the praising and magnifying of his name would be the highest delight for his creatures.  God is seeking his glory but also our highest joy.  This is the reason we should be clinging to his promises.  His promises are true because they bring him glory and we get the joy.

Maybe we should look at a couple of God’s promises.  Let’s look at the bookends of Romans 8.  The first bookend says that there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ.  If you are like me, you have felt condemned many times because of sin.   The guilt weighs heavy upon us.  We fall into the trap of thinking we need to earn God’s favor again and again.  But God is telling us that if we are in Christ than we have no more condemnation.  Christ was condemned in our place at the cross.  We have no reason for condemnation because the Father sees us clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.  You and I cannot improve on perfection.  Rather than fall into the trap of guilt and legalism, we should cling to God’s promise by faith.  When we fall into legalism we sin and God is not glorified and we are discontent.  When we trust God’s words by faith, he is glorified and we have joy.

The second bookend of Romans 8 is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  This is an easy promise not to believe.  How many times have we moped around wondering how God could love a wretch like me?  We sing that “God saved a wretch like me” but live as if he did not send his Son to die in our place.  We doubt God’s love for us in Christ.  Let’s face it, our moping around is nothing more than a prideful pity party.  We want it to be about us and how bad we are.  Rather we should trust God’s promise to us that in Christ nothing can separate us from his love.  When we cling to this promise by faith he receives the glory and we receive joy unspeakable.
 
God’s words are true.  We must hold on to them by faith.  When we doubt his promises, we doubt his character.  As his adopted children we can firmly cling to his promises.  The amazing part is that the gospel is at the core of every promise.  The Bible says, “For all the promises of God find their yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20).  In who?  Jesus Christ.  For those who are in Christ we have a guarantee found in Christ.  God promised before the world was formed to redeem a people for his own possession.  Since this is true why would we, as his possession, doubt his promises?  In the light of gospel, unbelief just doesn’t make sense.  We need God to help our unbelief.  May we say with David, “Your words are true.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, January 12, 2012

All Grace Dwells in God


Good words from James Smith courtesy of Grace Gems:

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you--so that in all things at all times, having all that you need--you will abound in every good work!" 2 Corinthians 9:8


All grace dwells in God-and flows freely from Him. He is glorified in the communications of His grace to the most unworthy. You have received a little--He is able to make all of His grace abound toward you. 

The aboundings of His grace will produce . . .
   strong faith,
   great patience,
   deep humility,
   holy contentment,
   ardent love,
   joyful hope,
   warm zeal,
   Scriptural courage,
   and spiritual fortitude.

It is divine grace which . . .
   first quickened us to feel our lost state;
   led us to Jesus;
   gives us a good hope;
   conquers our corruptions;
   enables us to act for the Lord's glory. 

In reference to all these things-you feel miserably deficient; you cannot produce them. But God can make His grace abound to you. He can give you a sufficiency of grace . . .
   to support you under every trial,
   to strengthen you under every burden,
   to qualify you for every duty, and
   to fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

You have perhaps set about doing good works-and have found yourself unable to perform them. You feel ashamed of what you have done; you have condemned yourself, and perhaps have given way to fear and despondency. Good works can only be performed through grace received from the Lord. 

Without God's grace-the wisest miscarry.
With grace-the most simple succeed! 

We can only serve God rightly-when we serve Him with His own grace. 

You are not sufficient of yourself so much as to think a good thought! Without supplies of grace from Christ-you can do nothing to please Him. 

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Obedience brings Victory

Jerry Bridges gives us some good words on holiness in his book the Pursuit of Holiness.  Bridges asks,

If holiness is so basic to the Christian life, why do we not experience it more in daily living?  Why do so many Christians feel constantly defeated in their struggle with sin?  Why does the church of  Jesus Christ so often seem to more conformed to the world around it than to God?

Ouch.  But sadly that does sound like me so often.  I know I'm not on an island though because this is a struggle with so many of us as followers of Christ.  Why are we so often conforming to the world and therefore being defeated?  Bridges continues:

Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered.  We're more concerned about our own "victory" over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve God's heart.  We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it's offensive to God...God wants us to walk in obedience - not victory.  Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self.

Will you begin to look at sin as an offense against a holy God, instead of as a personal defeat only?

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Come Praise and Glorify

Come praise and glorify our God
The Father of our Lord
In Christ He has in heav'nly realms
His blessings on us poured
For pure and blameless in His sight
He destined us to be
And now we've been adopted through
His Son eternally

To the praise of Your glory, 
To the praise of Your mercy and grace
To the praise of Your glory
You are the God who saves

Come praise and glorify our God
Who gives His grace in Christ
In Him our sins are washed away
Redeemed through sacrifice
In Him God has made known to us
The myst'ry of His will
That Christ should be the head of all
His purpose to fulfill

Come praise and glorify our God
For we've believed the Word
And through our faith we have a seal
The Spirit of the Lord
The Spirit guarantees our hope
Until redemption's done
Until we join in endless praise
To God, the Three in One (Tim Chester, Sovereign Grace Music, The Gathering)


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lower than a Slave

"I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.  It is he who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." (John 1:26-27)

John's mention of Jesus' sandal strap was an idiom, an expression of the Jews.  A disciple of a rabbi, such as Jesus' disciples, not only attended the lectures of the rabbi and learned the lessons that he taught, he took on the role of a servant.  The disciple actually functioned as the personal slave of the rabbi and took care of all of his needs - making his housing arrangements, getting his food, and so forth.  We see examples of this in the ministry of Jesus, such as the occasion when he sent his disciples into Jerusalem to make sure that a room was reserved where he could celebrate the Passover.  But the one thing that differentiated a disciples in a rabbinical school from an actual bondslave was that the disciples was never required to take care of the shoes or the sandals of his teacher.  A slave could be reduced to that humiliating task, but not a disciple.  Therefore, when John said, "I am not even worthy to unstrap his sandals," he was saying: "Don't look at  me.  I'm lower than a disciple.  I'm even lower than a slave.  I'm not even worthy to untie his shoes, to take off his sandals, to clean his feet.  Don't look to me.  Look to him."


I believe John put this incident right at the beginning of his Gospel to help focus his readers' attention on the One whom John's Gospel announces.  John is saying, through John the Baptist, "It's time to make straight the highway of our God." (R.C. Sproul, John)


Grace upon grace,
JRL