Wednesday, December 15, 2010

True or Nice?

I have been busy reading great blog posts by other people and have been neglecting my blog. However, I read a post today over at The Gospel Coalition that made me want to share.

One of the chief charges against Christianity is the problem of evil. One of the ways I have answered this objection is to simply point out that the problem of evil is not just a problem for Christians, it is a human problem. The question is, who has the best answers to this problem?

I encourage you to go and read this post by Petar Nenadov on a recent Tony Blair / Christopher Hitchens debate. These two sentences need the context of the whole blog post to make sense, but I'm going to post them here to highlight them and to encourage you to go and read the whole thing:

"If good means nice or safe, then none of these topics is good for the world. If good means true or real, then we must address them."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Espresso and Chili Chocolate

It may sound strange, but it's a satisfying combination. A little goes a long way.

A real blog post will be coming along shortly.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Health Care in a Different Era


As I was sorting through a few boxes of old pictures, letters and other things, I came across an old bill from the U of A Hospital. It was remarkable to see that my Dad put down cash for the surgery and associated services. What was even more remarkable is how little it cost in those days. If I am reading this bill correctly, my Dad paid $25 up front and received change!

I believe this surgery was for a collapsed lung that my Mom suffered in 1948 when she was not quite 24 years old. I'm sure she was in the hospital longer than this bill indicates, so it may be that this invoice only deals with details of the operation.

If any of my family are reading this, I'd love to hear more about this. Regardless, I thought this bill was an interesting historical snapshot.

It's amazing the things my Mom kept.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Gem from Spurgeon

October 15, Morning

But who may abide the day of his coming?” Malachi 3:2

His first coming was without external pomp or show of power, and yet in truth there were few who could abide its testing might. Herod and all Jerusalem with him were stirred at the news of the wondrous birth. Those who supposed themselves to be waiting for him, showed the fallacy of their professions by rejecting him when he came. His life on earth was a winnowing fan, which tried the great heap of religious profession, and few enough could abide the process. But what will his second advent be? What sinner can endure to think of it? “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” When in his humiliation he did but say to the soldiers, “I am he,” they fell backward; what will be the terror of his enemies when he shall more fully reveal himself as the “I am?” His death shook earth and darkened heaven, what shall be the dreadful splendour of that day in which as the living Saviour, he shall summon the quick and dead before him? O that the terrors of the Lord would persuade men to forsake their sins and kiss the Son lest he be angry! Though a lamb, he is yet the lion of the tribe of Judah, rending the prey in pieces; and though he breaks not the bruised reed, yet will he break his enemies with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. None of his foes shall bear up before the tempest of his wrath, or hide themselves from the sweeping hail of his indignation; but his beloved blood washed people look for his appearing with joy, and hope to abide it without fear: to them he sits as a refiner even now, and when he has tried them they shall come forth as gold. Let us search ourselves this morning and make our calling and election sure, so that the coming of the Lord may cause no dark forebodings in our mind. O for grace to cast away all hypocrisy, and to be found of him sincere and without rebuke in the day of his appearing.

From C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving as a holiday may not be the most significant event on the calendar. It is a relatively recent creation and a junior holiday, if you will, compared to Christmas, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Having said that, giving God praise and thanks is very serious business. It is good that we have a weekend to celebrate that fact.

Several years back, it dawned on me that worship is more about receiving from God than it is giving to God. Yes, we respond, but for our worship to be pleasing to God, we must first acknowledge him as the Source, the Giver of all - even the praise comes from him.

Tomorrow morning I am jumping ahead in my Hebrews series and preaching on one verse for the occasion of Thanksgiving Sunday, Hebrews 13:15:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

We offer praise and thanksgiving, and that is a pleasing sacrifice to God. Our sacrifice only qualifies if it is "through him" - our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only because we can follow him into the Most Holy Place that we may worship God at all. In this worship, we again come to God to receive from him - we need mercy and grace on an ongoing basis. God is pleased when we are dependent upon him, all the time. "O to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be."

Let me suggest an annual Thanksgiving weekend discipline for any believer: Read and reflect upon Psalm 50. God does not need anything that we could offer Him. To believe that He does is blasphemous, but God demands our sincere thanksgiving.

The benefactor gets the glory, and our God is a jealous God. Why is God so concerned that we focus on him? Because he is GOOD, in the absolute sense - there is no greater object for our appreciation, our wonder, our praise and thanksgiving. What God requires in this praise is what is the very best thing for us as well. Eternally.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making Gospel Connections

A variety of things today kept pushing me to think about Gospel connections. The Good News of the person and work of Jesus Christ has implications for every area of life - it really is "of first importance."

I am preparing a Bible Study on the beginning of 1 Timothy. The Apostle Paul did not insist upon sound doctrine because he was an academic perfectionist. Because he was called and sent by God to bring Good News to the Gentiles, he was compelled to stay on message. It was God's love that compelled him. He knew by revelation and by experience (in that order) that the Gospel is the power of God in the lives of everyone who believes.

Whether it's facing suffering and loss, everyday parenting, overcoming sin and temptation, or being a witness at work, getting the Gospel right and keeping it central must be the first priority for every Christian.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Years Today

Today is September 27. It was two years ago today that Emily went for her last walk on this old earth. Oh, for that day when the New Heavens and Earth are revealed, when we see the Saviour face-to-face and He makes all things new!

We're doing quite well, by God's grace. We trust Him, and we are greatly comforted for Emily's sake and ours by our sure hope in Christ. The Gospel changes everything.

We stayed home today. Juanita and the girls did school day things, I did a couple of projects, and we had some friends over for supper. We didn't feel the need to get out of town like we did a year ago.

These reminders, these anniversaries still hurt. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. However, we are experiencing the joy of the Lord and we are pressing on. I think all of us are a more serious about life and about what we believe. That's been evident in our church family as well. We do see God at work in people's lives - our own included - and for that we are deeply thankful (if I visit with you in person sometime, I'll tell you some stories).

Thank you, friends and family, for your prayers. Though our grief isn't as acute as it was, we are still conscious of our need to be carried by God through the prayers of His people. We feel like we've had a disproportionate amount of prayer from all over the place. We are humbled and deeply grateful. God is good.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preaching on Suffering

Had a rich time of study this morning in Hebrews 12:3-11. God knows what He is doing in our lives.

We can trust Him completely.

I'm planning to take two weeks on this passage. There's just too much here for one sermon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Matt Chandler on Suffering

Just found this video this morning. Though Matt's situation is very different than ours, I am so thankful for his faithful theology of suffering. This is God's grace in action.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Further Thoughts on Sentencing

It is difficult to put yesterday’s sentencing of Emily’s killer into perspective. I thought that after sleeping on it, words might come more easily. It is not to be. It is hard to sum up yesterday, let alone the almost two years that preceded yesterday’s closure. I know that there are many people looking for a personal reaction on this blog, so I will share a few thoughts.

First, in the big picture, yesterday’s sentence changes very little. God is still good, He is sovereign over all things. Emily is still not with us, though we have a sure hope that we will see her again. We still miss her terribly. As a family, we are doing well, carrying on and loving one another. We have grown in our love for God and one another, and we have a great, ever-widening circle of friends and a wonderful church family.

Yesterday was significant, though. We anticipated the sentence that was delivered. Some hear “18 years” and react negatively to such a short sentence. For the record, the sentence for second degree murder is a mandatory life-sentence with a minimum ten-year parole ineligibility. In this case, the ineligibility has been extended to 18 years due to particulars in this situation. We have been assured by the Crown prosecutor and by the closing comments of the Judge that all the facts relating to this brutal attack and the unrelated sexual interference charge will be on record for that time of evaluation 18 years down the road (or, specifically, 18 years from December, 2008).

We have said from the beginning that our hope is not in the Canadian Legal system. Justice is God’s, and, by His grace, we have been able to leave that to Him. We are thankful to God for the way this process has worked. We have been treated very well. We have been impressed with the professionalism, wisdom and care demonstrated by everyone in the system.

Our legal system is not perfect. It’s another human institution populated by fallible sinners, like every human institution, including, of course, the church. If you struggle with cynicism and a complaining attitude to Canadian institutions, consider the alternatives around the world and throughout history. We have it very, very good in Canada. My observations are anecdotal and the circumstances of this crime are extraordinary, but I am humbled and satisfied with how things have unfolded in this very difficult case.

Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lawrie Smith was concise, serious and most professional as befits her position. Her closing words after sentencing were a surprise to us. She took the time to give profound credit to the RCMP for their exceptional work. She said directly that without their work, we would not be here today. She also took the time to address us and the other victim’s mother and encourage and commend us. She offered her prayers and spoke of the evidence of God’s grace in our lives. That was very much appreciated.

One of the things I most appreciated about the Justice’s closing comments is that they effectively turned everyone’s attention from the perpetrator to the victim’s families. That was classy and well done.

I hesitate to mention other names because there are so many people to thank, and miss. From the many RCMP officers; EMT members; Victim Services people; the Crown Prosecutors we dealt with; and others, let me say publicly that we are thankful, and impressed with the good work that these people do. There are much easier jobs out there, and I am deeply grateful for these people that serve all of us.

We are also thankful that we do not have to endure a trial and subsequent appeals. This stage is over. Now we are praying that we will have many more opportunities to share the Gospel with people that need to be reconciled to God. I am weak, but He is strong. May He be glorified in our lives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sentencing Day

Juanita and I spent the day in Hinton, the nearest Provincial Court Bench to us (about an hour away from Edson). Today was the day that Emily's killer was sentenced. Mr. Kleman plead guilty to second degree murder in April and today he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 18 years. This was what we were expecting, and we are thankful for the resolution of the legal proceedings.

We are also thankful for the incredible work of the RCMP and the professional and kind way that we were treated by people in the system. It is humbling to see how people have been affected by Emily's death.

There are several stories hitting the news. That is all part of it. There are some more details out there, too, so if you don't want to read or see those, you might want to avoid the coverage.

There is much more that could be said, but I just wanted to give a brief update at this time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Home Again

After 10,577 kms, we are back from our holiday. We left Josh at Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College - his need to get there and our desire to see him off was the genesis of this trip.

Along the way, we connected with family, old friends and made several new friends. It was a good trip and we are thankful.

I will post a little about our experiences in the days to come, but one of the things that stood out to us as we drove up behind our garage this evening was the fact that nothing went wrong with the van and we didn't have any troubles at all. Compared to travel historically, or in many places in the world today, that is amazing.

We're looking forward to worshiping with our church family tomorrow morning, and to getting a good sleep tonight.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Big Holiday 2010

Our family is in Quebec City today. After we arrived yesterday afternoon, we went down to the Old City to check things out. I was going to post a picture, but our hotel wireless is not cooperating.

We are a long way from home, but the trip is going well and we are thankful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Save Face?

You can tell a lot about someone by their face. It is said that the eyes are the window of the soul. But people can become very proficient at superficiality. At best, reading someone's countenance is not a sure-fire way to diagnose their soul. Still it is a start. Have you been noticing people's faces recently?

I have been thinking about faces lately because I have been reflecting upon Psalm 42 again. This is the Psalm that encourages us to talk God's promises to our own souls when we are on the hamster wheel of discouragement and affliction. If you haven't encountered this concept, I would encourage you to pick up Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones or at least listen to this message on Psalm 42 by C.J. Mahaney. Or just read the Psalm reflectively. That's the best place to start.

If you use a modern translation, as I do, you won't seen anything about faces in Psalm 42. If you read the KJV, you will find that in that Psalm the line translated "my Saviour" or "my salvation" in verses 5 and 11 are "help of his countenance" and "health of my countenance" respectively. The range of the Hebrew in the original allows for either. Woodenly, I guess you could say that God is the one who can save my face by showing His face.

Note the progression captured in this Psalm in verse 5 and verse 11 in the KJV:

42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

The way the KJV has it, the recovery that the Psalmist needs - his salvation from his soul trouble - comes from the countenance of the Lord. In the parallel verse at the end of the Psalm, this God is the help of his countenance. God shows His face and the man is restored so that health is restored to his own face in the midst of his troubles.

Now I know that the word "countenance" carries more freight linguistically speaking than the mere word "face." That line about the eyes being the windows to the soul gets at "countenance" more profoundly. Countenance includes our whole aspect - character, attitude and personality.

So what about suffering and faces? If our suffering is caused by our own sin, we ought to feel shame - we'll want to hide our face. If our suffering is external to us, imposed upon us, yet public, we can become conscious of the fact that we are "those people." Our faces are noticed in the grocery store or even in church. This can be uncomfortable. If we let it, it can accentuate our suffering. Either way, we need help.

Our face in this metaphorical sense as well as literally is bound up with our identity. In suffering, our identity can be overwhelmed by whatever grief or despondency has gripped us. Our face will show our suffering. Our face needs saving. We need to see God's countenance. He is the lifter of our head. We need to know that God is willing and able to save us in His mercy by His grace. We learn this in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Him there is life. In Him there is now no condemnation. There is health and salvation in His healing look.

When I read Psalm 42 in the KJV, I had an image of an old Western wanted poster in my mind. I saw the Psalmist as one who is hunted and in a state of near panic as his enemies without and his fears within are overwhelming him. His own face accuses him. He sees that poster everywhere. Like a hunted criminal, he knows he has to get out of Dodge, but he can't. He needs a Saviour. He needs more than a witness protection plan, he needs a perpetrator protection plan. That is what God - the God who saves sinners - provides.

Saviour / salvation are fine words in Psalm 42:5, 11. Sometimes, however, it pays to reflect upon the old English ways of putting things so that we can look at things from a different angle. The countenance of our Great God and Saviour is my help. His face is health for my countenance.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Hymn

This morning we sang Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (Indelible Grace version). I really love the words to this hymn, so I thought I would share them here:

Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder
from 1 Cor. 6:11, 20; Rev. 1:5

1. Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior’s name
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has brought us nigh to God

2. Let us love the Lord Who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by His grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He presents our souls to God

3. Let us sing though fierce temptation
Threatens hard to bear us down
For the Lord, our strong salvation,
Holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown
He, Who washed us with His blood,
He, Who washed us with His blood,
He, Who washed us with His blood,
Soon will bring us home to God

4. Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God

5. Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high
Here they trusted Him before us
Now their praises fill the sky
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou art worthy Lamb of God

©2001 Laura Taylor Music.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Resurrection Changes Everything

Excellent devotional comment on Acts 9 today by Dr. Carson. This is biblical theology in action. Could there be anything more important than this?

I'll quote the July 22 entry in its entirety:

WHAT WAS PAUL’S PERSPECTIVE before he was converted (Acts 9)? Elsewhere (Acts 22:2; 23:6; Phil. 3:4-6) he tells us that he was a strict Pharisee, brought up (apparently)in Jerusalem, taught by one of the most renowned rabbis of the day. For him, the notion of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. Messiahs rule, they triumph, they win. The Law insists that those who hang on a tree are cursed by God. Surely, therefore, the insistence that Jesus is the Messiah is not only stupid, but verges on the blasphemous. It might lead to political insurrection: the fledgling church was growing, and might become a dangerous block. It had to be stopped; indeed, what was needed was a man of courage like Saul, a man like Phinehas who averted the wrath of God by his decisive action against the perverters of truth and probity (Num. 25; see meditation for May 16), someone who really understood the implications of these wretched delusions and who saw where they would lead.

But now on the Damascus Road Saul meets the resurrected, glorified Jesus. Whether he had seen him before we cannot be sure; that he sees him now, Saul cannot doubt. And a great deal of his theology, worked out and displayed in his letters, stems from that brute fact. If Jesus were alive and glorified, then somehow his death on the cross did not prove he was damned. Far from it: the claim of believers that God had raised him from the dead, and that they had seen him, must be true—and that could only mean that God had vindicated Jesus. Then what on earth did his death mean? From that vantage point, everything looked different. If Jesus was under the curse of God when he died, yet was vindicated by God himself, he must have died for others.

Somehow his death absorbed the righteous curse of God that was due others and canceled it out. In that light, the entire history of the Hebrew Scriptures looked different. Was it not written that a Suffering Servant (see yesterday’s meditation) would be wounded for our transgressions and chastised for our iniquities? Does the death of countless lambs and bulls really take away human sin? Or do we need, as it were, a human “lamb of God,” a human “Passover Lamb”? If the tabernacle and temple rituals are read as pointing to the final solution, what does that say about the present satus of the covenant enacted at Sinai? What about scriptural texts that promise a new covenant, a great outpouring of the Spirit in the last days (Acts 2:17-21; see Joel 2:28-32 and the meditation for July 15)? What place does the promise to Abraham have in the scheme of things, that in Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3; see meditation for January 11)?

Grant that Jesus is alive and vindicated, and everything changes.

D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois: 1998, p. 229

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peter Pan

Juanita, Petra and Anne are anticipating Peter Pan performances tomorrow and Friday at our little theatre in Edson after three weeks of hard work.

I have had a couple of glimpses of the rehearsals. They are all having too much fun!

27 kids have registered and the volunteer leaders are doing a great job. Juanita is the musical coordinator, Petra is Wendy and Anne gets to be Nana the dog.

This should be good fun, but I'm not sure if there are any tickets left (it's worth checking out if you're in the area).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Teaching on Roman Catholicism

My Sunday sermon was a part of my Frequently Asked Questions series - 5 messages on a range of subjects. We have friends who are Roman Catholic, and a few people in our church from Catholic backgrounds. I certainly don't want to be offensive, and I tried to be accurate and fair in my description of Roman Catholic teaching. If you don't agree with what I had to say, I can respect that. The differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics are profound, longstanding and often very personal. I don't think anyone is served by pretending that they don't exist.

I must admit that I am looking forward to the Fall and getting back to consecutive preaching through a Bible book. It is safer for both me and our church if I stick to the text, though not less likely to cause offense.

If you'd like to hear what I had to say, it is available at our church website.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

FAQs

I'm doing something a little different for my summer sermon series this year. I will be away a few weeks on holidays, and other people are in and out over the summer, so I'm doing stand-alone messages. This is typical for a summer series, the twist comes in the topics.

I started as a full-time pastor in the fall of 1990. I haven't kept a record of frequently asked questions, but there are a few that keep coming up. So, this summer, I'm going to try to answer some of these FAQs. I didn't do any polling, and I didn't ask for responses, but going from experience, I've selected five common questions to tackle.

- July 4: What about people that have never heard the Gospel? Can they be saved?
- July 18: Roman Catholic and Protestant: What's the difference?
- August 15: Angels and Demons: What does Scripture teach about them?
- August 22: What does separation of church and state mean?

The first message is up over at our church website, www.edsonbaptist.com

Perhaps I am rushing in where angels fear to tread, but I've gotten a positive response to the concept of the series. I know not everyone liked the first message, but that's not why I preach.

What is that old line? The purpose of preaching is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I was certainly convicted by the implications of my message today. I need to act on it. Beginning this week!

** UPDATE: The link for the sermon at the church website is now fixed. Sorry 'bout that!

Friday, June 11, 2010

On Faith

I have been preaching through Hebrews since September. I'm working thorough Hebrews 11 now. It is taking longer than I anticipated. I am continually amazed at the richness and depth of faith in this chapter, let alone all of Scripture. Faith is like a magic onion - when I peel off several more layers in trying to understand it, the onion looks much bigger after the process.

It is easy to find a simple dictionary definition of faith (like these), but because faith is such a central concept in Scripture, it is so much more than these simplistic (and often inaccurate) definitions. Real Christian faith, Gospel faith, is much greater than we tend to think.

A paradigm shift that I already experienced years ago (when I embraced Reformation theology) is taking me deeper. This understanding is the biblical perspective that faith has a lot more to do with God - the character of God, the grace of God, the work of God - than it does with us. Yes, we must exercise faith, but God is the author, the power and the object of true Christian faith.

Don't settle for simplistic conceptions of faith. Go deeper. Try to figure it out and how it applies to your life. It is a rewarding study.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Troubling Details

Yesterday we met with Victim Services here in Edson. We learned that a "Statement of Fact" was being released to the media. This is a very detailed document. The Victim Services coordinator read much of it for us - sensitively checking with us when the details were particularly difficult.

We thought that without a trial, the media would not have a lot to work with, but I guess we're learning as we go how the system works.

Mr. Kleeman is due for sentencing after his guilty plea earlier this year. We had been expecting a June 9 date (that's why this statement of fact is being released now). Our victim impact statements are in order, but we will have to wait a little longer. The sentencing has been put off until September.

The main reason I'm writing this is to let our friends and family know to avoid the news - or be ready to tune out - in the next few days if you don't want more disturbing details. Judging by one report I read online, I'm a little slow off the mark.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pearl Stauffer - June 4, 1924-May 19, 2010

This morning my Mom finished a relatively brief fight with cancer. We are thankful that she did not have to suffer long, though the last few days were difficult.

My Mom had a quiet, confident faith. She came to Christ in her late teens. The verse that God used particularly in her conversion was Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Mom led me to Christ 33 years ago. I am thankful for our serious spiritual conversations - in the last few years particularly.

Death is still an enemy. It was a difficult struggle for Mom. Between painful breaths on Monday morning, Mom said a few times, "I want to see Jesus."

She has her wish. Death is done for her and we rejoice that she is now with her Saviour. To say that she is now well is an understatement!

The service will be at Edson Baptist on Sunday, May 23 at 3:00 pm.

A few people have already said to me, "She was a sweet, kind lady." That's true.

We will miss her.



Monday, April 26, 2010

The Next Step

The accused in Emily's murder has pleaded guilty to second degree murder. We were not in court today. Monday is my day off and I spent the day in Hinton at a piano festival with our girls.

We're thankful that this case won't go through the long, drawn-out trial and appeal process. We trust that God is sovereign in it all and rest in His care.

A few more details have become public regarding how Emily died. This may be hard for some people to see and hear. If this had gone to a full trial, there would have been many more details released over time, so we are relieved that there is a guilty plea. We are still waiting for sentencing, but this was an important next step today.

If you would rather not know more details, don't read the stories. If you would like to see how Edmonton news stations are reporting, here are a couple of links: CTV, Global

I don't know where some of the details came from. We don't have a choir, though Emily was involved in music in our church. Monday afternoon Bible studies would be a great thing, but we didn't do those. Small things, really, but it's odd how news gets out.

Thank you to those of you who are praying for us and have encouraged us in so many ways. We appreciate you, though we'll never be able to personally thank everyone.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Encouraging Convergence

A month ago I did a post on a song, All I Have is Christ. Today, while driving to an out of town wedding, I listened to John Piper's Message from Together for the Gospel 2010. In his introduction and conclusion, he referenced this song. I assume they sang it before the message.

This is no earth-shattering coincidence or anything, but it makes me value this rich and moving song all the more to link it with the deep content of that message on justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Extraordinarily Important Help in Suffering

To prepare for, to help others or cope personally with suffering, please take advantage of these resources compiled by Justin Taylor. This is a treasure trove!


Together for the Gospel 2010

Highly recommended messages. I am so thankful for this group of teachers and even more thankful for the Gospel that they proclaim.

It is messages like this that makes having an iPod worthwhile! You can, however, listen to the audio or watch the videos online on your computer or download the audio.

Monday, April 12, 2010

God's Strength Every Day

I was just reading the April 11 comment from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God, Volume I on Psalm 18. Right at the end of the reading, I smiled at this paragraph and read it to Juanita:

Perhaps God does not strengthen us to make war. But in a theistic universe, we confess God gives us strength to write computer programs, to sort out administrative problems, to change yet another diaper, to study the Greek text of the New Testament, to bear up under insult.“The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!” (18:46).

Juanita said that she just read a missionary letter that quoted the same lines. The author said, "I've done all those things! It was like reading a mini biography." It's neat to know that friends around the world are reading the same things.

What is even greater to contemplate is the fact that the saints over the centuries have been reading the same Word of God!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

reFocus 2010


Juanita and I arrived home from several days in the Vancouver area. We attended the reFocus conference - you can follow the link for more details. Audio and video files will be up soon, but you can find some notes at the site already.

It was great to meet and reconnect with a bunch of people. It is encouraging to know how many Gospel-focused people there really are out there.

One of the highlights of the week was a talk and Q&A session with Preston Manning. Those were a couple of thought-provoking sessions. I've appreciated the diversity of the speakers at reFocus and this year was very engaging.

I'll be updating more later (I have a sermon to finish for tomorrow), but I wanted post for a change and give a brief update.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All I Have is Christ

I've had a song going through my mind lately. It breaks the rules because it is a good song. Usually, songs I don't want to think about provide my mental soundtrack, but this one is welcome. I just need to learn all the words.

These lyrics are powerful. We sang this song at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors and Wives Conference last April and it left an impression. I had to buy it when we got home.

All I Have is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You


Jordan Kauflin
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
As recorded on Looked Upon


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Lord's Table: Where Do We Look?

People ask me from time to time if there is any value to reading blogs. Well, last week I took two things from blogs to use in the Sunday service. I admit that using blog stuff in ministry is somewhat rare, but I do benefit from what I read.

Last week, I was thinking about interrupting my Hebrews series to do a more pointed reflection upon the Lord's Table. I found this post at The Gospel Coalition Blog to be very helpful. I stole the outline and wrote my own material under each point. It was well received and I think it is a very good guideline for thinking through the meaning of Communion.

The second thing that caught my attention was this post by Tim Challies from Saturday. I used part of this powerful Spurgeon quote in my message.

My notes for the reflection are below. My message from Sunday is up on our website as well.

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

1. We look up in worship.

Jesus is Lord. He is the Son of God. We must worship no one but God. When we come to the Communion Table we worship Jesus. He is God. No one else and nothing else can bear the weight of worship – not because our worship is so great, but because God created us to worship Him alone.

Think about it. When we look to Jesus as Saviour and worship Him as our Lord, we know that He is absolutely perfect, our all sufficient Saviour. He is BETTER than any other, and absolutely powerful, faithful, loving and eternal.

If we lean on anyone else as ULTIMATE, they will fail us. But with Jesus, we can put all our hope and trust in Him and He will never let us down and never let us go.

Our worship includes joyful praise and DEEP THANKSGIVING to Christ. He has done for us what we could never do for ourselves – He has given us forgiveness, reconciliation and adoption so that we can call God our Father and enjoy Him forever!

As you participate in these elements today, worship Jesus as your God and King.

2. We look back in Remembrance

Jesus told us to remember when we eat and drink. Our thoughts should turn back to that hill outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago and remember what it cost the Saviour to suffer for my sin.

Our only altar is that blood-stained cross.

Think about that last meal – the Passover supper – that Jesus had with his disciples before He was betrayed. Think about the mockery of the trials that He endured. Remember the crown of thorns and the purple robe, the flogging and the jeering of the leaders and the crowds.

Think about that day – how the earth shook, how the sky grew dark, how the pagan centurion said, “Surely, this is the Son of God!”

Look back and remember.

3. We look forward in anticipation.

Jesus told us to continue to eat the bread and drink the cup until He comes. This solemn meal is very small, but it points ahead to a great feast in that Great Day to come – the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

At that meal, we will be clothed in our FOREVER BODIES. We will be done with faith and hope, because we will have Jesus with us physically and we will OWN the INHERITANCE of the saint – reunited with all those that have gone before us, done with sin and corruption and sickness and death FOREVER.

Look forward to that day, savour the reality of the New Heavens and earth and determine to build up your treasure THERE, not here in this broken-down world!

4. We look outward in proclamation.

Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper our actions proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. I often say that these elements are a sermon in material form. That may not sound very Baptist, but it is biblical.

1 Corinthians 11:26 – as we eat and drink, we proclaim.

If you are here this morning and you are not a Christian, we want you to feel that you are on the outside looking in. Without that sense of distance, of alienation from this sacred meal, you will not appreciate what you are missing.

Don’t get me wrong – we WANT you to come in by faith, confessing Jesus as Lord and trusting Him as your Saviour.

I don’t want you to participate if you do not believe. There are warnings of judgment for taking part in an unworthy manner. This does not mean that any of us consider ourselves to be worthy BY OURSELVES, but only through faith in the forgiveness and righteousness EARNED by ANOTHER – namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. We come by faith – but we participate because we really do believe in the merit of Christ for us.

5. We look inward in examination.

As believers, when we eat the bread and drink from the cup, it should only be in a spirit of humility and repentance. It is our sin that cost Jesus such suffering – particularly the suffering of the cup of the Father’s wrath that He drank for us as He absorbed the penalty for our sin.

If we are Christ’s people by grace through faith, then sin no longer reigns. However, it still remains until we see Jesus face-to-face, and we must learn to hate it more and more.

We should not focus merely on the physical sufferings of Jesus, but confess our sin that caused our Saviour grief. Just yesterday I read this quote on Tim Challies’ blog:

*You need not weep over the crucifixion, but weep over your transgression, for your sins nailed the Redeemer to the accursed tree. To weep over a dying Saviour is to lament the remedy; it were wiser to bewail the disease. To weep over the dying Saviour is to wet the surgeon's knife with tears; it were better to bewail the spreading cancer which that knife must cut away. – C.H. Spurgeon

So participate in this holy meal only after you have looked deep within and have confronted and confessed the sin that remains in you.

Remember, though, that your sin is wonderfully and supernaturally forgiven by the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Confess it. Trust Christ that He will remove it from you “as far as the east is from the west.”

6. We look around in consideration.

Look at each other. We who are joined together in a fellowship of faith in Christ are His Bride, His Body.

In 1 Corinthians 11 the context is love for one another. This church was messing up their celebration of the Lord’s supper and even doing more harm than good because they were not considerate to each other.

I read somewhere recently that, “One of the reasons the church exists is to teach us to love people that we don’t like very much.” Christ’s ministry of reconciliation not only teaches us an example of love, it promises to change our hearts so that we do love one another.

Be considerate, understanding, patient, courageous to exhort when necessary, speaking the truth in love.
__

We are going to have a few moments to silently prepare to take the Lord’s Supper together.

Look to God in Worship; look back to the cross in remembrance; look forward to Heaven in joyful anticipation; look outward in proclamation at those who are watching you; look inward in examination as you confess your sins; and look around in consideration at Christ’s body that is sharing this meal with you.

* C.H. Spurgeon, "Wherefore Should I Weep?" 22 October 1876, from Luke 23:1-31.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Is it Christian?

In seminary, our theology professor encouraged us to evaluate preaching by asking the question, "Do you have to be a Christian to say what he's saying?" In other words, could an unbeliever give the same message? If the preaching is moralistic, a character study, a collection of stories or merely the opinions of the speaker, then it is not good preaching. It may not even be Christian.

I thought of this quote this morning at our early men's Bible study (5 am). We are studying 1 John and as we were discussing 2:1-8, on of the men made a comment on verse 4 that I thought was very good. He said, "If you took this verse out of context, you would really misunderstand the passage." Here's 1 John 2:4: Whoever says, 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

We talked for a while about the context and agreed that the grace of 2:1-2 is essential for a right understanding of this obedience. This obedience must be a fruit of God's prior work for us in Christ. What John is describing is the work of God that we are set free to do in obedience and love, not wages that we must do in order to earn our peace with God.

This reminded me what the Lord said He would do for His people as He gave them the Promised land, that they would enjoy ... houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant.... This is true with Christian obedience as well: We benefit from the grace that God gives as we love Him and others and serve him in gladness. It is all of grace. Even our best works make us greater debtors to His grace in Jesus Christ.

Christian proclamation must be focused on what only we have, namely, Christ and the true gospel. This is particularly true for preachers, but it is also true for all Christians all the time. When we are faced with challenges at work, we must turn to the cross. When we discipline our children, we must point them to the root of sin and the glory of the cross. Whether we are encouraged or discouraged, we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day and make it our aim to make gospel application in everything.

In every area of life as Christians, we should be asking, "Is it Christian?"

Friday, March 05, 2010

TV Interview









Thanks to everyone for your gracious comments both here and over on Facebook.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

TV Interview

Last fall, on September 28 to be exact, Juanita and I were interviews by a reporter from 100 Huntley Street, a daily Christian TV program here in Canada. This morning, our family went downstairs at 9 am to watch the interview.

It was very well done. Maggie Johns, the reporter, did a very good job with it. It was a challenge to watch. Perhaps more so for the kids. However, we are thankful for the opportunity to declare God's goodness and faithfulness.

The interview should be up on the 100 Huntley Street Website soon if you would like to watch it.

If you are new here because you saw the interview, welcome! If you would like to read through my posts from immediately after Emily's death, go to 2008 Posts, scroll to the middle of the year and look for the picture of Emily and then read from that point to the top of the page.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Free Audiobooks

Such a deal!

Christian Audio has two free audio books for download this month: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship and John Piper's 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.

Go to Christianaudio.com, click on the free downloads button and check it out. You will have to register, but it is well worth it. They have a free book each month, so check it out regularly. You'll notice that they have some good books on sale, too.

Let me end with a caution: not everything they have there is good, so use discernment! This month's titles are well worth your time, however.

HT - JT

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bad Worry, Good Worry? Part 2

In my post yesterday, I presented a couple of examples of the Apostle Paul's perspective on worry. Was he inconsistent? Was his concern (anxiety) for the churches that he planted sinful?

I believe that his "do not be anxious about anything" in Philippians 4:6 describes a different kind of worry than his concern in 2 Corinthians 11:28 (and his fear in 1 Thesalonians 3:4-5). Three key factors lead me to this conclusion.

First, because the Bible is true and trustworthy, I do not believe that we are looking at any kind of inconsistency or sin in Paul. This is not because Paul was perfect, but if he was in the wrong in these instances, the Holy Spirit would have let us in on his sin. His concern was a matter of his human weakness, not a result of a failure on his part to trust God. He couldn't see what was happening in the churches and he wanted assurance that all was well with their faith.

Next, I think the context in Philippians 4 indicates that Paul's prohibition on worry relates to individual joy and contentment in the Lord. Paul learned not to worry about himself and he instructed his readers to pray and not worry about themselves. On the other hand, his concern for others indicates deep love, a pastoral burden that really convicts me in regard to my care for the people in my church.

The last consideration is that the worry of Philippians 4 is probably a non-productive worry, a worry that you can't do anything about (I don't have any good reason for this, it's a hunch based on what I read regarding the other kind of anxiety). This kind of worry is always useless.

Paul's pastoral concern is a kind of anxiety that was justified. The churches that he planted were in danger - danger from false teachers, danger from temptation to sin, danger from overt persecution. These were not imagined problems, they were very present dangers for these churches and they sat heavily on Paul's mind and heart.

More than that, Paul could - and did - do something about these concerns. He prayed, he sent associates like Timothy to places like Thessalonica, he visited these churches himself when he could and, of course, he wrote letters.

So what's the application to us?

When you're anxious, pray. But, when you're anxious, ask the Lord if He is prompting you to do something about that anxiety. If you find that the circumstances that cause you anxiety are beyond your control, pray for contentment. Trust God in the situation. If, however, there is something you can do about someone you are worried about, then do it. It may be a phone call, a visit, a letter, a gift of a useful book, practical help or whatever you come up with.

It could be that that nagging worry is a prompt from God for you, a call to show his love to someone who needs your help and prayer.

Not all absence of worry is a cause for self-congratulation. If I do not have anxiety about other people - good worry, you might say - I may be guilty of not caring enough about people and their circumstances. The Apostle Paul's pastoral care extended to having a measure of productive, prayerful anxiety.

Don't worry: pray, love and serve.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bad Worry, Good Worry?

I have been thinking about worry lately. We have seen some examples of anxiety from the Apostle Paul in our Wednesday Bible study recently and I'm trying to reconcile his instruction in one place with his personal confessions in other places. At one level, these passages seem contradictory.

The first passage, the instruction regarding worry, is very well known:

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Compare 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5

(W)hen we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

In the first passage, the apostle urges us to find God’s deep peace by trading our anxiety with joyful, thankful prayer. In the second passage, it almost seems that Paul has been a nervous wreck regarding the Thessalonian Christians.

See also 2 Corinthians 11:28 where Paul says that he has to bear the pressure of anxiety for the churches daily (concern / anxiety is the same word as the anxiety in Philippians 4:6).

So what gives? Is worry always bad, or does Paul set the pattern for good worry?

I’ll give my take on how to reconcile these passages tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't Fall Away

On Sunday, I preached one of the most difficult messages that I have ever delivered. The text is Hebrews 6:1-12. Here is the really pointed bit, 6:4-6:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

I do not believe that these verses describe a Christian losing their salvation, but this warning should cause all of us to tremble.

I have posted the message on our church website. I couldn't get it to upload - every once in a while I run into this problem - but I did an end-run around that by splitting it into two parts (part 1, part 2). We're working on a solution to uploading big files -- that is, long sermons.

I welcome your feedback on this controversial message. I've heard from a few people locally already! I'm still not convinced of my handling of all the details, but in the big picture, I'm satisfied that I understand the warning and its application.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Book Recommendation for Easter

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross is a book that we bought last year. It is an excellent devotional preparation for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Follow the link to Justin Taylor's blog to read more and find links. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Conference Update

Just a quick note to follow up my "Conference Hopping" post from a couple weeks ago. We did indeed attend the "Goodness of the Gospel" conference in Calgary. It was excellent. A big thank-you to Clint and Company at Calvary Grace Baptist Church for planning and hosting the conference.

We had 10 people from Edson make the trip to Calgary and another 5 "Edson connection" people come to the conference. It was certainly worth our while!

I also went to the Desiring God Pastors Conference in Minneapolis. It was different going off on my own after having a crew at the Calgary conference, but it was good. The messages were great, and I met some folks that I hope to meet again! It was a rich time of fellowship.

I'm back home for a while now. Juanita and I are planning to attend the ReFocus Conference in Burnaby in April, however.

Bible Study Blessings

Do you just read the Bible? Granted, reading the Bible is better than nothing, but I would encourage you to study the Bible.

Just this morning, I got to work on my Bible study for tonight. After a quick read of the passage, I thought, "There's not much here." I've thought that before after a superficial look at other passages, but when I have taken the time to really study the text, I've had to repent - quite happily, I might add. There is always a treasure in God's Word. You'd think I'd learn!

We're looking at 1 Thessalonians 3, which deals mostly with news of a visit that Timothy paid to the church. Paul and his companions had to get out of town quickly after they first preached the gospel there, and Paul longed to get back there. He had to settle for a report from Timothy, and the report contained good news - the church was well, it had thrived in the midst of adversity.

What really gripped me as I looked more closely at these verses was Paul's love for these saints - a love that delighted in the growing faith of his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. Paul was facing his own adversity - opposition and affliction on every front, in fact. However, what he lived for was the joy that came through seeing others grow in faith and love (compare Philippians 1:21-26).

In these verses, we see how faith works in the power of the gospel. Faith results in love, joy, holiness and contentment in the face of suffering. Joy is the engine that makes this thing fly.

I think I am better at seeing how faith relates to personal holiness (and that's important), but I was really convicted by the picture of deep Christian love and exuberant joy that is modeled in this chapter.

I have some work to do as I seek to "supply what is lacking in (my) faith" together with the saints here. I need a bigger vision of the love and joy of my Saviour in the transformation of sinners.

So then, I encourage you to study your Bible on a regular basis. Ask questions of the text. Slow down, compare translations, look for connecting words and pray for God's help in seeing what's in the passage and applying it to your life. You will be surprised and blessed at the riches and depth of God's Word.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Conference Hopping

Josh and I are on our way out the door to go to the Goodness of the Gospel conference in Calgary. There are between 8-10 of us from Edson Baptist that are planning to be there. I'm really looking forward to it.

We're going to come home Saturday night, I'll preach on Sunday, and then on Monday I'll be flying off to Minneapolis for the Desiring God Pastor's Conference.

I won't be blogging much over the next week, but, then, do I ever?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TV Interview

Last fall we did an interview with a reporter from 100 Huntley Street. My favorite blogger has details on when that is supposed to air. It was hard to do that interview. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. We're praying that it will be helpful and God-honouring.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

For the Love of God Reading Plan

Whether you make resolutions or not, make sure you are in a Bible reading plan this year. If you haven't started, or are looking for a good plan, check out Dr. D.A. Carson's For the Love of God devotional online. Dr. Carson has written two volumes of devotional commentary tied to the M'Cheyne reading plan, one was published in 1998 and the other in 1999. This plan and one of the devotionals from the four daily readings will be published - blog-like - each day. If you subscribe to blogs via a reader - like Bloglines or Google Reader - these devotionals and the Bible reading schedule will be sent to you automatically every day. This may work like an online conscience for you if you have trouble sticking to a plan.

The M'Cheyne plan will take you through the Old Testament once and both the New Testament and the Psalms twice. If four or five chapters per day is too much, cut it in half and read the first or second two readings. Carson's commentary is designed to help you think through what's in the text and is a wonderful complement.

I don't normally talk about my Bible reading (do your praying, etc. in private and all that), but I have been using both of volumes daily, reading all four daily readings and Carson's commentary. I speak from happy experience as I recommend them.

If you'd prefer to get the books, you can find them at the usual bookstores, or get them at Monergism Books online. They are also available for free as PDFs, which is what I use because one of our volumes went missing.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Dwell 1: In the Beginning

Will God dwell with man on the earth? This is a critical question as we anticipate another celebration of Christmas. The coming of Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Answer to the greatest human need – the need to know God and to be with Him.

In the first chapters of the Bible, we read that God walked with Adam and Even in the cool of the evening. In the last chapters of the Bible, we read of an angel who says in a loud voice: Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:3).

At the beginning and at the end of God’s revelation to man, we understand that it is God’s design to dwell directly and immediately with the people that He created. What about all the time in between – the time that we live in? Will God dwell with man on the earth now in our sinful and rebellious state?

God is omnipresent. That is, He is everywhere at the same time. Speaking to pagan philosophers in Athens, the Apostle Paul said: 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring' (Acts 17:28). If we are all His offspring and we all live “in” Him, as He is everywhere, then what’s the point of talking about where God dwells?

God created man to worship and enjoy Him. God created man and pronounce this crown of His creation, “very good.” God took particular, personal care in making man and woman. The most important aspect to that care was the fact that God made man – male and female – in His own image.

Most of all, man is created for relationship with God – for worship, for adoration, for thanksgiving to God and enjoyment of God. In the beginning, God did indeed dwell with man in uninterrupted fellowship. That did not last. In Genesis 3, we read about a tragedy that we can’t fully comprehend. We have each been born into a fallen, sinful, broken and twisted world. It seems normal to us, and yet, even the atheist knows that things are not the way they’re supposed to be.

There is much beauty and goodness left in the world, yet everything has the stain of sin, and we know that death is a constant enemy. We know the story of the fall (see Genesis 3:8-11).

Note that even before the curses were pronounced, we read that something terrible had happened to Adam and Eve: Man hid from God – new realities of guilt and fear and self-preservation in the face of God’s holiness and goodness rushed to the surface and man ran from God.

It’s been the same ever since. Even religious man hides from God in his religion, even as he says he is seeking God. The golden calf that Aaron and the people made to worship in the wilderness is a classic example of religion at work. The God who spoke on Mount Sinai terrified them, so they made a calf of gold and then had a party.

Time after time in the history of the Bible, man hides in fear from the revelation of God’s holiness and creates idolatrous religion as a sinful substitute. Most people on earth believe in God. In spite of the press that the New Atheism has received in recent years, people who reject any concept of God are in a small minority. Religion is a quest for man to reach up to God. Religion is formed by man out of the brokenness of sin, it is a twisted form of worship designed by man to make God smaller and man bigger. Man wants to make the One True God into something he can control, but this is only an evidence of mans sin and arrogance.

So will God dwell with man? God has said, man shall not see me and live (Exodus 33:20).

Still, there is a longing for something divine, something eternal, and something significant in the heart of man, but sin stands in the way. Because of our sin – inherited from Adam but compounded by our own sins – we have hidden from God and God has, in His mercy, hidden His face from us.

Because God is holy, he judged sin. There was a sentence in the form of curses, these were the consequences of rebelling against a holy God. But even in that judgment there was mercy. This mercy came in the form of a promise

When was that promise to be fulfilled? It was not fulfilled with Cain. He proved to be the first murderer. Human accomplishment and the development of culture did not reverse the curse, it only amplified sin and underscored the distance between God and man. In Genesis 4-5, we see the sober pattern of the fallen world – the refrain of “and he died...”

In every stage of Old Testament history, we see that the distance remains. Through the prophet Isaiah, the LORD says: Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2).

What was the greatest thing that was lost in the Fall? The immediate presence of God! When God created man, it was for His glory and man’s good. It was for mutual enjoyment. God loves His people and He desires to dwell with us. That’s why we are still here. That’s why we have not been destroyed by His righteous judgment.

What about the curse? I said earlier that God promised that He would send one to end the curse and restore the blessing of the presence of God. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).

The enmity between the woman and her offspring is plural – this has been the story of human history, hatred, violence, idolatry, disease and disaster of every kind. It seems like the serpent wins.

However, the one who will crush the serpent’s head is an individual, God become flesh. He shall bruise the head of the serpent. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15).

God delights in His Son. It is because Jesus Christ has defeated Satan by taking upon Himself sin and, consequently, death, that He is able to be our Champion to reconcile us to God:
• He is the New Adam – this is the new beginning that we’ve been waiting for
• He Himself is GOD WITH US He is God who dwells with us
• He brings reconciliation, peace, grace and LIFE to the fallen sons of man.

The Christmas Hymn, Joy to the World has a great verse: No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found.

“HERE HE IS” – Finally, the one that has come to rescue us from the curse.
• Incarnation – Immanuel: God with us; Jesus: God saves; Christ: The Anointed One
• Life – Perfect, righteous, the perfect law-keeper, identifies with our suffering
• Death – Takes on the curse, bears our sin, sheds blood to purchase our forgiveness
• Resurrection – defeats death, crushes Satan, guarantees our inheritance with Him!

God will dwell with man. He has come to dwell with us so that we may dwell with Him forever!
One day, we shall see the face of Jesus and be made like Him (1 John 3:2). In the meantime, we have a preliminary restoration through the knowledge of Christ. By His forgiveness and new life, we may dwell with God as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is the light that stepped down from Heaven, God become flesh so that God may truly dwell with us and we may dwell with God forever. This is the true meaning of Christmas!