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Posts Tagged ‘Work of Jesus’

I could see this backyard lawn without any detail other than the fairly short grass. As I observed, I* walked over to the center of the yard and drove a narrowly triangular stake into the ground. Then I tied one end of a small rope that was curled up on a spool onto the stake and began unwinding it as I moved away from the stake. I always kept the rope taut but it danced up and down as I went. After a few moments I paused and looked back at the rope and the stake. As my eyes focussed on different segments of the rope, I saw knots tied at irregular intervals. I compared these knots to their distance from and similarity to the stake. Only in daydreams and dreams can Physics laws be overcome. For then I released the rope, which stayed taut, walked back to several of the more noticeable knots and drove stakes into the ground through the knots. I stood back, observing, as the rope continued to unfurl for what, with a pause**, would be eternity future. 

When the scene vanished from my mind, I immediately realized that it was a metaphor for my life and salvation. The ground, which like a plane, receded off infinitely forward and backward, but unlike a plane had depth of soil, represented salvation. I was being grounded in a salvation that was decided in eternity past and would be executed throughout all of eternity future.

The stake was my moment of salvation. And here is the reason that I believe this line of musing came upon me. I had been considering Jesus’ words to Zaccheus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because, he, too, is a son of Abraham.” When I read “today”, I understood that Jesus meant that in that moment, in space and time, Jesus had come to Zaccheus in salvation. I have been among varying brothers over time as concerns their understanding of Jesus’ work of salvation. Some say you must receive Jesus; it is your choice. Others say that to ask someone to receive Jesus is wrong and counter to God’s ordaining of salvation in a person’s life. Salvation is wholly of God and “it is your choice” puts man in the driver seat of a vehicle he can’t control. It is wrong. But God is both eternal and transcendent while personal and present. He works in eternity and He works in time. He has predestined those who will be saved and brings it about- all glory to Him. But we do not know the when, the how, or the who, so we plead with people to believe and receive Jesus. When they do, God has accomplished in that moment what He ordained long ago. There is a stake planted in time and eternity. 

Some people know when that stake was planted; some do not. It is planted nonetheless. When a person does not know, perhaps it is obscured by the fog of life or the mysterious moment and work of God was not by Him revealed to that person. When a person knows the when, it may be a helpful source of assurance. Our little rope is firmly attached there and our life is subsequently unfurled. But the main source of assurance is those ancillary stakes in our lives resulting from knots or difficulties in our lives. When we continue to believe and act on that belief throughout our life, we confirm and deepen that faith by driving another stake into salvation. We become more assured. God provides the event in our lives, the stake of faith, the hammer of confirmation, and the strength of remembrance. He animates every part of our faith, but He involves us. All of those stakes ground the rope of my life in the ground of eternal salvation. Jesus holds them firm in Him.

I feel certain that someone could punch holes*** in my metaphor, but the the points I intend are 1) God accomplishes salvation in time and eternity, 2) God involves us, and 3) We have assurance through faith in God throughout the events of our lives. That assurance is described in the letter of I John. One phrase, “by this we know”, occurs 8 times in the book along with other similar affirmations of assurance God gives us that we belong to Him. The best way to have assurance that you believe is to believe right now, which builds more assurance for those trying times when it is harder to believe. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31) is a stake in the ground of salvation then and again and again and now and in the future. Faith does not provide salvation; Jesus provides salvation. Be always clinging to Him.

*It is weird to think of yourself as watching yourself in a dream or daydream.

**For the believer death is not an annihilation of life but a mere transition or pause.

***That pun has holes all in it, but I’ll stake my writing on the truth of it.

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Some things you learn through “book learnin'”, and I’m not adverse to that since I can’t be everywhere at once or in one life time. But learnin’ by experience is better when you can get it. I have a friend who is a very talented artist. He produced several insightful and intriguing stippling pictures (check out “Business on Parade”). And at one point when I was underemployed, he gave me a little work. One of the projects he gave me for some graphic design work he was doing was a stippling of a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet from white graded to black. I guess we would produce that by a digital method now, but he said at the time that the random process of poking a pen at a paper produced a far better picture.* I think that I remember it taking about 10 hours overall.

On my way to church this morning, I was praying that God would give me something to make the Sunday School lesson more interesting. As I drove the interstate the drizzle (or mist) slowly intensified and then later let up. I turned on the intermittent wipers to a slow setting, but I did not increase it as the rate of drizzle increased. I began to notice what reminded me of stippling on the windshield and every 5 seconds or so it got wiped off and started over. Artists that stipple use different sizes of pen tip for a given picture or on different elements of the same picture. The windshield stippling was far more complex in its randomness, utilizing multiple droplet sizes and some streaked upon impact. The effect was quite interesting. To our eye randomness brings some level of pattern. Three dots even nearly in a row look like a line and catch the attention. Four dots can suggest a square, rectangle, or rhombus. But looking at the individual dots is not the point (or points? ha ha). One must step back to see the artistry. The windshield would still look random, but when an artist is involved the result can be detailed beauty and communicate mood.

There is a metaphor here. Our lives are stippling drawings. Each strike of the pen can seem random for which we are thankful or annoyed or perplexed or overwhelmed or exited or challenged. But from these many seemingly random events God is designing a beautiful picture that reveals the Artist’s involvement in the process. Randomness alone cannot produce ordered beauty.** God is giving glory to Himself and benefiting us and others through controlling each strike of the pen on the paper of our lives. No unforeseen events ever mar the picture He is making.

I began the Sunday School lesson with this illustration and then in Luke 9 showed how Jesus was sovereignly controlling every detail of the events before, during, and after the feeding of the 5000, including what details were recorded. Jesus tested Philip’s and Andrew’s (indeed, all of the disciples’) faith when He knew what He was about to do. Every detail filled out the picture He was painting. Before the big reveal of everyone satisfied and 12 baskets full of leftovers, the questions and commands must have seemed trying and confusing. God, give me patience and perseverance as the pen contacts my paper in seemingly random spots and ways, knowing You are in control and this process is for Your glory and my good.

A stippling ball

A Stippling Ball****

*Yes, I enjoyed making that predominantly “p” phrasing.

**Crystal patterns in rock or snow flake form randomly but have underlying chemical design. I could get into the whole evidence of design argument, but you should read my blog entries because it is a frequent theme.

***In fact, the painting seemed to be focused on an extended metaphor of bread. Let’s talk about that another day.

****It would take more time and far more dots to make a good picture of a ball and its shadow, but I feel like it represents the intended purpose.

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There is so much to be thankful for. James 1:2 says we should “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials”. God’s ways are consistently counter and frequently appear odd to us. But accepting and even giving thanks during trials produces “endurance” and renders us “complete”. (James 1:3,4) The trials of Jesus were for our good (Hebrews 5:7-10).

Can scars be beautiful?
My Lord's certainly are
So rich in mercy full

Can troubles lend a hand?
My Lord's saved me from hell
By His strength I now stand

Can temptations bring good?
My Lord's perfected Him
I cling more as I should

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I don’t deal well with time stress. Have I said that recently? I alternately repeat what I just got through saying and forget what I just said which is a degenerative form of circular reasoning that I am convinced is not solely due to age, but rather to stress. More on that later, IF I get the time. So, this is a short blog entry to say that I am thankful for my six Sunday School students who were singing out on “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” this morning, participating in prayers of thanksgiving, playing a review game on biblical concepts, reading the Scriptures out loud, and dutifully filling in their table of biblical facts that they promised to review with their parents. Well, it doesn’t always go quite that well, but they are children who want to know what the Bible says, and that is exciting. I prayed for them this morning that God might make them leaders in their future families, their churches, their communities, and their nation for the glory of God. 

Our lesson was concerning the verifying and differing testimonies to who Jesus is and what He came to do as presented in the Gospels. Should you be interested in looking it over, following is the table I had them take down as we read and discussed the Scriptural passages:

Gospel Themes
Comparison of the Gospels

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I haven’t blogged for one month now. I dislike not putting my thoughts down, but the last month has been an wholly unexpected whirlwind. Added to my absence from the blog was the 3-week loss of my journal. I use composition notebooks of the kind you might use in a science lab. This morning I found it. I decided that as time allows I will read back through it. The second entry was concerning a Bible study I had done about Jesus reading in the synagogue, His inaugural speech as it were. He read Isaiah 61:1-2a:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…”

Then He stops, mid-thought, mid-sentence, and hands the scroll back to the synagogue official, saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was proclaiming the purpose and purview of His ministry. The reason He stopped at this exact place in the passage was “Today”, namely His 1st advent to Earth, it was “fulfilled”. The next parts, “And the day of vengeance of our God, …to comfort all who mourn, …they will rebuild the ancient ruins, …everlasting joy will be theirs,” (Isaiah 61:2b&c, 4a, 7d) refer to His second advent, followed immediately by the Millennium and Eternity Future. 

Now, I know that this points to a certain theological perspective, but I am neither ashamed of it nor have any particular doubts about the general outline of it. In fact, my more than usual intense reading of the minor prophets this summer solidified and deepened my conviction that God still has a plan for physical Israel both to judge the majority and to save the remnant in order to fulfill all of the promises He has made and not yet completed. Many of these prophecies are just too clearly oriented to the blessings of land and nation to be spiritualized away. We who are spiritual Israel, which I believe includes the saved remnant of physical Israel, will participate in those blessings during the Millennium.

I had a small diagram in my journal that shows how prophecy frequently teaches us about future events. It is not at all new to me, but I like to put things down and add detail as I am able.

Prophetic View

No diagram, analogy, type, or metaphor can ever be a complete explanation of  the reality, but they may be accurate to the extent they are intended to explain the reality. The prophet is thought to not be able to see the valleys, because God is just revealing the mountaintops of future events. However, some of the events of the Inter-testamental Period (Silent years) are revealed in Daniel’s vision in chapter 11. Antiochus Epiphanes (though not named) is given as a type of the the Antichrist. So, the Inter-testamental Bad Guy and the “Day of the Lord” Antichrist are featured in the same prophecy.

This is a frequent pattern in prophecies. There is a near or historical (from our perspective) fulfillment and a future and/or spiritual fulfillment. David can truthfully groan, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1), and yet be simultaneously and more completely revealing the crucifixion of Christ a thousand years later. So, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that “The Spirit of God is upon me,” and God is saying that Jesus will say and do these things later over several periods of time.

To place this Isaiah 61 passage on my diagram above, I would understand to to look something like the following:

Prophet          Near Fulfillment        1st advent           2nd advent     Millennium        Eternity

Isaiah 61:1-9      good news to the   “The Spirit…          “day of           “comfort      “everlasting
afflicted              favorable year”      vengeance”      all who mourn…    joy” .          portion in                                                                                                                                                 their land”

If I were to add or change anything in my diagram, it would be to add some labeled glasses on the prophet which read, “Holy Spirit vision”. We all need discernment and discretion and these come solely from God (Proverbs 2:1-12).

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Recently, I gave each of my older grandchildren (that’s 4 out of 6, who are old enough to understand what I am saying) a polished black rock. I told them that every time they look at it or rub it with their thumb to keep it shiny, they should think, “Jesus is  like a rock that is unchanged.” He is firm. He is sturdy. He is dependable. He provides for us. The Scripture describes Him as a rock in I Corinthians 10:4: “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from the same spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.”

The illustrations for Paul’s comments in I Corinthians are found in Exodus 17:1-7, Numbers 20:1-13, and Deuteronomy 8:15, 32:1-43 (The Song of Moses). If you read the Numbers passage, you will see that God got angry with Moses and Aaron for striking the rock this second time instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. Even though Moses’ anger showed a presumption on his part, what God says to them reveals the source of God’s anger as resulting from them not treating (or representing) God as holy before the congregation. They had disobeyed God’s direct command. I have long wondered why God got so angry. I believe ultimately it may be because Moses’ careless and angry action destroyed a symbol God had designed to explain His work with man. The first time before a rock (Exodus 17), God commanded Moses to strike the rock. The second time (Numbers 20), God commanded Moses to speak to the rock. The first time Christ came He was struck on the cross to deliver us from sin, for “in that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” (Zechariah 13:1) Just as the rock poured forth life giving water for the people when Moses struck it, so Christ poured forth life giving blood when the nails were struck into his hands and feet. The second time Christ will come “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await him.” (Hebrews 9:28) He will gladly provide all we need and more for those for whom He was struck to rescue them. “Ask, and it will be given unto you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the it will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened to him.” (Matthew 7:7-8) 

In Deuteronomy, Moses teaches Israel a song about the dependability, consistency, strength, perfection, faithfulness, righteousness, and jealousy for His people of Israel’s God, their Rock.

David helps to solidify our understanding about God as our Rock. His most direct explanation of the rock metaphor comes in Psalm 18. In verses 1-3 he sets forth the idea of the Lord as his rock:

“I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

The rock metaphor becomes a shorthand for David of security, protection, salvation, strength, victory, and all else that God means to him regarding physical, mental, and spiritual rescue from all variety of enemies. God is for him a firm place where his foot doesn’t slip and his enemies don’t overcome him (v.36-37)

I know that my grandchildren can’t understand all of that right now, but learning dependence upon God is a good lesson to begin early. We will always need to come around to learning it at a deeper level and life provides many opportunities to review that lesson.

20190729_083735

 

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On the drive to church this morning,
I wrote the first verse of the following poem.
Hands free communication (as with a cellphone) disallowed me
to write it down, so the beginning of the second verse was lost
to me before I could write it down. But the direction in which
I was thinking remained for the rest of the poem to come this afternoon. God’s grace and goodness are so great, especially in contrast to our inability to comply to His commands and wishes.

So much wickedness in my heart
Made in God’s image, tarnished art
Frequent failings, falling away
To often straying from the way

Desire to follow ever grows
Distracted by pleasures and woes
Many small failings of the heart
Who will give me a brand new start?

Jesus only, beginning, end
Power to enable, transcend
All my failings and weakness
Distracted thoughts and selfishness

All by grace He has given me
From Him any good that you see
This fragile glass His strengths reveal
Demonstrates His goodness is real

One day my faulty service gone
Perfect obedience will dawn
In good time I will be steadfast
Then I will see God at long last

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