We know the love of God when we love others

by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church refers to a David Black blog. Both comments are worthy of careful thought.

Dave Black does not blog as much as he once did. Of course, at times like this when he’s in the middle of teaching at Southeastern, he’s on campus several days per week, and his “blogging platform” (if you can call something from the 1950′s a blogging platform) does not allow him to blog unless he’s at home.

But, when he does blog, his comments and thoughts are always compelling and challenging – academic and practical.

For example, last week, he said this (Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.):

Recently I was speaking with a friend who confessed to me that he felt lonely. This, despite the fact that he is happily married and has a family. (Yes, there is loneliness even when one is married, and even when one has children. How silly to think that another human being could ever satisfy our deepest need for companionship.) Referring to Phil. 2:5-11, I told him that I thought the answer to loneliness is love. It is not in our finding someone to love us, but in our finding in God someone who loves us perfectly. We then express our gratitude to Him by a happy and joyful pouring out of our lives in love to others, without expecting anything in return. Fortunately, I think my friend understood this. I’m glad he did, because I myself am still panting to catch up in my emotions to what I know to be true in my mind. In dying, we live. That’s the only way to experience true joy, writes Paul in Philippians. So let’s pour out God’s love on the undeserving, for this is the mind of Christ!

This seems backwards to our human intuition! If I understand what he is saying, then the way for us to “feel” the love of God is by expressing or demonstrating the love of God. Or, to put it another way, by dying to our self (and living for God and others), we find that we are truly living.

This reminds me of something that John wrote in his first letter:

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates (i.e., does not love) his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21 ESV)

By the way, when John writes about loving your brother or sister, he’s not talking about feelings or emotions; he’s talking about action! Don’t believe me? Check out 1 John 3:17-18.

Do you feel unloved? Then love others. Do you feel lonely? Then love others. Do you feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled? Then love others.

We know the love of God when we love others who do not deserve our love.

Psalms, Worship, and Prayer

by Shane Lems at The Reformed Reader blog

 The selections of articles about the psalter and Christian worship in Sing a New Song are outstanding.  Here’s a helpful discussion in chapter 11, “Psalmody and Prayer” written by John Fesko.

“We live in a culture that desires near-constant entertainment, so it should not be much of a surprise to find an entertainment-driven understanding of music in the church.  Sociologist Alan Wolfe, in his insightful The Transformation of American Religion, explains how pastors of megachurches use marketing research to identify the different contemporary music preferences of the people in their communities in an effort to make worship appealing, contemporary, and relevant.  Wolfe explains, ‘The whole idea behind this approach is that secular culture, for all its faults, knows something about getting and retaining an audience.’  What lies behind such assumptions is that the music in a worship service must be entertaining, and, if it is, churches will be able to retain visitors.  Yet there is an underappreciated dimension of music in worship that has been passed by, ignored, or unknown, namely, songs as a form of congregational prayer.”

“If song in worship is a form of congregational prayer, then music in worship turns on an entirely different axis.  No longer is music in worship a question of entertainment but rather an expression of personal and corporate worship and devotion.  In such a light, singing psalms in worship takes on an important and significant role not only in corporate worship but also in the corporate and individual prayer lives of Christians” (p. 173).

This is a great perspective.  It should help us judge our songs from a biblical and corporate point of view.  Are our worship songs biblical, corporate prayers to God, or are they private, ambiguous feelings on display for the sake of entertainment?  I do believe that where psalms are abandoned, ignored, and/or replaced with ambiguous contemporary praise music, the solid piety of the church devolves and degenerates into immature Christianity – the immature Christianity one often finds on top-40 Christian radio and on the shelves of Christian book/music stores.

Positively speaking, remember that when you sing with the saints this Lord’s Day you’re praying together with your brothers and sisters to the living God.  As we sing together, we’re not only teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns, we’re also calling upon the name of the Lord together.

A Hymn for a Busy Life

by

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is my health and salvation!
Come you who hear
Brothers and sisters, draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration.

 

Praise to the Lord, He who prospers my work and defends me;
Surely His goodness and mercy now daily attend me.
Ponder anew
All the Almighty can do,
He who with love does befriend me.

Praise to the Lord, who does nourish my life and restore me;
Fitting me well for the tasks that are ever before me.
Then to my need
He like a mother does speed,
Spreading wings of grace over me.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen
Sound from His people again:
Gladly for yeah we adore Him.

Clothed with humility

from Christianity.com

All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble– 1 Peter 5:5

Here is the secret, Peter says, to genuinely and consistently serving others: humility. As long as you are set upon pleasing yourself, fulfilling yourself, seeking self-advancement, you will never be able to genuinely serve others.

Be clothed with humility.A wonderful and poignant way of emphasizing the need for a constant covering of our self-seeking human nature. Let humility be the attire you choose to walk in, live in each day.

Why live this self-deprecating, self-denying way of life? The reply is simple and powerful: God resists proud people, but He gives grace and help to the humble.

Those who lower themselves to serve others will find that God himself is serving them! He gives to the humble, others-oriented saints of God the forgiveness and strength and supply that they do not deserve but so desperately need.

On the other hand, those who seek to exalt and help and please themselves should realize that they are literally anti-God! They are choosing sides, and the battle will be them against God.

Which describes your condition today? Do you find God meeting your every need as you seek sincerely to meet the needs of others, or do you find yourself constantly at a loss to fulfill yourself, even though you give yourself to the effort whole-heartedly?

God resists the proud, but He helps those who help others.

Jesus’ concept of discipleship

by Eduard Schweizer, in his book The Good News According to Mark:

This concept of discipleship is Jesus’ own creation. The Greeks and the later rabbis spoke of ‘disciples of God,’ however they meant by this ‘becoming like him’ in an ethical sense, or the obedience to his commandments. The relationship of the rabbis to their students seems to be a closer parallel to this discipleship. The primary difference is that the rabbi does not call his disciples–he is sought by them. Above all, the rabbis never could have conceived of a call so radical as to make clear that being with Jesus is more important than all of God’s commandments. A disciple of a rabbi might dream of some day becoming even better, if possible, than his master; but a disciple of Jesus could never expect that some day he himself might be the ‘Son of Man.’ Jesus never debated with his disciples as a rabbi would have done. Thus the word ‘follow’ received a new sound when Jesus said it, a sound which it has nowhere else except in those passages of the Old Testament which declare that one must follow either Baal or Yahweh.”

If God Himself be for me

by Paul Gerhardt, 1656

If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy,
For when I pray, before me my foes confounded fly.
If Christ, the Head, befriend me, if God be my support,
The mischief they intend me shall quickly come to naught.

I build on this foundation, that Jesus and His blood
Alone are my salvation, the true eternal good;
Without Him, all that pleases is valueless on earth:
The gifts I owe to Jesus alone my love are worth.

His Holy Spirit dwelleth within my willing heart,
Tames it when it rebelleth, and soothes the keenest smart.
He crowns His work with blessing, and helpeth me to cry
“My Father!” without ceasing to Him Who reigns on high.

To mine His Spirit speaketh sweet words of soothing power,
How God to Him that seeketh for rest, hath rest in store;
How God Himself prepareth my heritage and lot,
And though my body weareth, my Heav’n shall fail me not.

 

It is finished

by Matthew Henry

Eight things that were finished or completed when Jesus Christ cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30):

1. It is finished: The malice and enmity of his persecutors had now done their worst; when he had received that last indignity in the vinegar they gave him, he said, “This is the last; I am now going out of their reach, where the wicked cease from troubling.”

2. It is finished: The counsel and commandment of his Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled; it was a determinate counsel, and he took care to see every iota and tittle of it exactly answered, Acts 2:23. He had said, when he entered upon his sufferings, Father, thy will be done; and now he saith with pleasure, It is done. It was his meat and drink to finish his work (John 4:34), and the meat and drink refreshed him, when they gave him gall and vinegar.

3. It is finished: All the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished and answered. He speaks as if, now that they had given him the vinegar, he could not bethink himself of any word in the Old Testament that was to be fulfilled between him and his death but it had its accomplishment; such as, his being sold for thirty pieces of silver, his hands and feet being pierced, his garments divided, etc.; and now that this is done.

4. It is finished: The ceremonial law is abolished, and a period put to the obligation of it. The substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. Just now the veil is rent, the wall of partition is taken down, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, Eph 2:14Eph 2:15. The Mosaic economy is dissolved, to make way for a better hope.

5. It is finished: [The price of] sin is finished, and an end made of transgression, by the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness. It seems to refer to Dan 9:24. The Lamb of God was sacrificed to take away the sin of the world, and it is done, Heb 9:26.

6. It is finished: his sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul and those of his body. The storm is over, the worst is past; all his pains and agonies are at an end, and he is just going to paradise, entering upon the joy set before him. Let all that suffer for Christ, and with Christ, comfort themselves with this, that yet a little while and they also shall say, It is finished.

7. It is finished: his life was now finished, he was just ready to breathe his last, and now he is no more in this world, John 17:11. This is like that of blessed Paul (2 Tim 4:7), I have finished my course, my race is run, my glass is out, mene, mene – numbered and finished. This we must all come to shortly.

8. It is finished: The work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed, at least the hardest part of the undertaking is over; a full satisfaction is made to the justice of God, a fatal blow given to the power of Satan, a fountain of grace opened that shall ever flow, a foundation of peace and happiness laid that shall never fail. Christ had now gone through with his work, and finished it, John 17:4. For, as for God, his work is perfect; when I begin, saith he, I will also make an end. And, as in the purchase, so in the application of the redemption, he that has begun a good work will perform it; the mystery of God shall be finished.”

In number 8 above, did you notice how Henry points out the provisions of Christ’s death and what it accomplished? Four statements, each beginning with the letter F:

  1. Full satisfaction for sin is made to the justice of God
  2. Fatal blow to the power of Satan
  3. Fountain of grace opened that will flow forever
  4. Foundation of peace and happiness laid that will never fail