Merciful Might

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, ESV).

            Here the sons of Korah declare the marvelous security of those who trust in the Lord.  The image is of a stronghold or place of safety where God’s people may shelter against even the fiercest catastrophe.  Thus the following verses describe the supreme safety of the Lord’s presence against world-shaking cataclysm (vv.2-3), and the psalm’s refrain reiterates this theme of God as fortress (vv.7, 11).

            Rely on God’s merciful might to protect you.  God is the shelter of His people; in every danger, He can save; in every struggle, He can lift you up.  Place your confidence in Him.  Though the road may be perilous, He will bring you safely home.

Giver of Light

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3, ESV).

            This short psalm carries on the themes of Psalm 42, observing the distress and isolation of the psalmist (vv.1-2), and ending with the same summons to hope (v.5; cf. Ps. 42:5, 11).  In the middle is this prayer for God’s mercy to draw him near, which is followed with the hope of renewed joyful worship (v.4).  We need the merciful leading of God, who can deliver us from all distress.

            May the Lord draw you ever nearer to Himself.  In all our sins, struggles, and fears, He is our hope and our Redeemer.  May He bless you with peace and the joy of His presence as you go through this day.

Redeeming Power

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5, ESV).

            The psalmist follows his statement of longing for God (vv.1-2) with words of mourning and anguish, reflecting on a joyful fellowship with God that seems broken (vv.3-4; cf. vv.9-10).  Then he comes to this question and corresponding charge (v.5), which may be taken as the key theme in the psalm, for it recurs exactly at the end, in verse 11.  He interrogates his soul, searching for the reason behind its anguished grief; and he points himself to the hope of all the righteous: the redeeming power of God.

            Hope in God, when you are downcast; call out to Him in the depths of your sorrow, and even in despair.  God is able to save.  God is able to redeem, restore, and heal.  With God, the future is always bright with possibilities, for no one and no situation is beyond the power of His redeeming love.

Broken Censors

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The fallout from the despicable Capitol storming continues, in the social sphere as well as the explicitly political.  Tech corporations have silenced not only certain social media accounts, but the platform Parler, an alternative to Twitter.

In principle, these communication giants are just trying to stop people from using their platforms to promote violence; but, accusations of selective enforcement of such policies call this into question.  More significantly, this is only a ramping up of a pattern of technocratic suppression of conservative and Christian speech.  What can we observe from what the tech giants censor, and what they permit?

Because, of course, there has always been censorship.  That is to say, societies have mores, and they tend to enforce those mores in some way and to some degree.  I was reading the other day Francis Schaeffer’s Escape from Reason.  Writing about the Marquis de Sade, Schaeffer observes that “Twenty or thirty years ago [from 1968], if anyone was found with one of his books in England he was liable to have difficulties with the law” (38).  Now, Schaeffer is talking about shifting moral standards, for he goes on to say, “Today, he has become a great name in drama, in philosophy, in literature.”  But I just wish to remind people that there was a time when sadistic ‘literature’ was censored—and such censorship is good for society, not only because sadism hurts people but because it appears that the (natural?) result of failing to censor immorality is that eighty years down the road you end up censoring morality.  In the early 20th century in the west you could get into trouble for advocating pagan sexual morality; in the 21st, for advocating Christian sexual morality.

The call for a society free of moral censorship was a transitional stage in imposing a new (im)morality, just as feminism was a transitional stage to the abolition of gender.  I am not saying there is a mastermind behind these things, but that when you kick out the foundation the house will continue to crumble.

And, to extend the metaphor, other people may come along and try to build something new out of the rubble, according to their own designs and with very unsound architectural principles.  A morally neutral society—secular, in that sense—is an illusion.  You can maintain that illusion for a while, living off the (appropriated?) social capital of residual Christendom even while denouncing it.  But man is a moral animal.  A new morality emerges, and it may yet prove as heavy-handed as it is immoral.

Consider this: Planned Parenthood has a Twitter account.  Yes, that unabashed destroyer of innocent life tweets freely.  Promoting violence is, apparently, quite acceptable to Twitter.  The recent social media purges, then, merely highlight the instability and double-mindedness of a society in rebellion against the Lord of Life.

But the Lord is King, and His Kingdom stands in the midst of this dark world, and His victory is unstoppable.  The Word of God cannot be silenced.  He is exalted, and “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php. 2:10-11, ESV).

We do not need to fret or fear the turmoil around us.  We do need to focus on Christ and His kingdom.  The tremors in our society are an ominous but useful reminder to live as kingdom citizens in this world and in our nation: as men and women, to live lives of true discipleship; as families, to raise our children in the knowledge of the truth and the fear of the Lord; as churches, to operate as outposts of the kingdom of God, and cultivate a Christian counter-culture that has the kingship of Christ at the center.  If the church did that, we might get to be the ones rebuilding the crumbled house of western civilization.  Who knows?  With God all things are possible.

But, more importantly, our perspective must remain eternal.  Nations and civilizations come and go.  God is King forever, and His children persevere in this life because in the life to come they shall be with their Lord in the new heavens and new earth, where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

The Thirsty Soul

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1, ESV).

            This memorable image begins the forty-second psalm, which continues to describe the psalmist’s yearning for a sense of God’s presence and mercy.  The longing of a deer (or a man) for water makes a picture of the soul’s longing for God—“the living God” (v.2), who alone is able to give life, and to satisfy the thirsty soul.

            God, and God alone, can satisfy the deepest yearning of our hearts.  Seeking satisfaction outside of Him is sure to fail; but when we draw near to Him, we find in Him the wholeness and mercy we need.

Another Warning

Tags

, , , , ,

Albert Mohler offers some good reflections on the evil of the riot in our nation’s capitol yesterday. It was a grim and tragic moment in American history.

Freedom is good for humanity, and anarchy is just as much an enemy of freedom as is totalitarianism. The corruption of our democratic institutions is no excuse for desecrating them, and assaulting democracy does not lead to human flourishing.

The headlines are one more call to repentance and revival, if we will read them right. Jesus is Lord. The Prince of Peace offers hope, life, and healing. Without Him, we are lost.

Poor and Needy

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.  You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40:17, ESV).

            David’s confidence in God’s deliverance does not make him lackadaisical in petitioning divine aid.  On the contrary, his assurance of God’s mercy (v.11) leads directly to acknowledging the perils of his situation (v.12), and to earnest pleas for God’s salvation (vv.13-15) and the satisfaction of the righteous (v.16).  He ends the psalm with a final reflection on his need for God’s salvation, praying that the Lord would reach down to him once more (v.17).

            God is not limited by our weakness.  Our own insufficiency may be used by the Lord to draw us to Him, and remind us of our dependence upon our Maker and Savior.  In your weaknesses, fears, failings, in daily needs and desperations, turn to Jesus—your mighty and merciful Savior.

“In the Name of…”

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

            I mentioned a couple of days ago the silliness with which Rep. Cleaver ended his prayer for the opening of congress on Sunday, and I certainly wasn’t alone in observing the nonsense of it.  But that little detail has gotten more attention than the fact that the prayer was problematic in more significant ways.  How we end our prayers matters, but may not matter as much as the basic question of who we are praying to.

            I am no connoisseur of congressional prayers, and would be unsurprised if they were blasphemous as a matter of course; I make no claim that Cleaver’s prayer stands out from the pack (though it might, for all I know).  But the ending has claimed so much attention that we might as well draw people’s eyes up a few lines from “amen and awoman.”

            You can view the whole prayer on C-Span (there’s also a transcript, but it is both incomplete and unreliable).  And the prayer is not all bad, as concerns its content: there is humility, and an expressed desire for unity (if rendered somewhat incredible by the prayer’s conclusion).  But the question of great concern is, to whom is he praying?

            Towards the beginning, he invokes, “Eternal God,” which is an acceptable, if not explicit, Christian address.  He says, “The members of this august body acknowledge your sacred supremacy,” which seems to me unlikely, but we shall return to that.  Various phrases biblical and Christian phrases suggest that it is the one true God whom Cleaver addresses—without ever bringing in any of the key terms, such as “Jesus,” “Holy Spirit,” or “Trinity,” that might really seal the deal.  Nonetheless, one is left with the impression that he might actually be praying to the actual God—and making the audacious claim that the U.S. congress operates in submission to the Holy One.

            But, at the end, he concludes, “We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names, by many different faiths.”

            Beg pardon?

            It would appear that Cleaver has been praying to a hypothetical shared god of the world’s religions.  He conflates “the monotheistic god”—an inadequate catchall that could conceivably have reference to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, “Brahma”—the Hindu creator god, and a general reference to the gods of other religions.  In this secularized, pluralistic prayer, Cleaver seems to be trying to include everyone—thus effectively excluding most people.

            This notion, that all religions (or at least certain religions) really worship the same god under different names is not at all unique.  It is unsurprising to see it on the religious left, and perhaps the only safe course on the political left.  It is also blasphemous.

            When we read the Scriptures, we do not find God regarding worship of other gods as really being worship of Himself.  We find God profoundly distinguishing Himself from the gods of the pagans, “For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (Ps. 96:5, ESV).  God declares the idols worthless (Jer. 10:15), and the worship of such idols futile (Isa. 42:17).  We find not that God may be sought by any name, but that there is one name we must confess, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

            To whom, then, was Representative Cleaver praying?  Whose “sacred supremacy” does he (and, he presumes, the rest of congress) acknowledge?  Not, apparently, the one true God.

            And that is the real problem behind all the other problems.  If our leaders submitted to the true God, our nation would not advance legislation that defies God and denigrates, devastates, and destroys people made in His image.  Idolatry is the problem, and as long as we worship idols we will harm image-bearers.  All hopes grounded in idolatry are vain.

            But there is a light in the darkness, and hope for any who will have it.  When we acknowledge the one true God, when we confess the name of our Savior, then we find the path of life.  “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).  He is the true hope, light, and life eternal.

Unrestrained

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

“As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” (Psalm 40:11, ESV).

            After his initial reflections on God’s deliverance (vv.1-5), David proceeds to describe his response to the Lord’s merciful call (vv.6-10), including verses that have a further and final fulfillment as Messianic prophecy (vv.6-7).  David has forthrightly borne witness to God’s kindness and salvation (v.10); now he reflects once more on the graciousness of divine favor (v.11).

            God’s persistent mercy is our abiding hope.  His love continues to reach out to us, His fatherly heart to care for us, through all our trails and failings.  We can look to God for stability and strength in life’s struggles, and for mercy in our time of need.