Adulation

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Bless the Fount of all good gifts,

Hearts adore and spirits lift

To God the ever-generous

Who pours His blessings out on us.

Bless the Father, Spirit, Son,

Gracious Giver Three-in-One

Bless the Father, luminous

Yet cloud-enveloped numinous,

Maker, Master over all

Merciful to those who call.

Bless the Son our Life and Lord,

Creation’s mighty Master-Word,

God-made-man our souls to save,

Victor over sin and grave.

Bless the Spirit, Holy Breath,

Breathing life that outlives death;

Spirit-King, forever reign,

Adored in worship’s holy strain.

Bless the Father, Spirit, Son,

Gracious Giver Three-in-One

Bless the Fount of all good gifts,

Hearts adore and spirits lift

To God the ever-generous

Who pours His blessings out on us.

Matrimony

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I officiated a wedding this week, and it was a wonderful, joyous occasion—as a Christian wedding should be.  A man and a woman united in holy matrimony.  But what is marriage, this marvelous joining of two lives?  It is a remarkable union, and it has a remarkable message.

Marriage is the key and foundational relationship in human life.  It is not God’s design for everyone—and those God has designed for singleness have a special gift, and a special honor.  But God’s normative design for man and woman is marriage, and out of this union (normatively) emerges the family.  We see this design expressed in the beginning.

When God created the world and all the creatures that inhabit it, He made mankind as the pinnacle of His creation, creatures distinct from all other creatures—creatures made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).  And when He created the first man, we read that “the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18, ESV).  None of the other creatures were fit for that role (vv.19-20), so God created woman from out of man (vv.21-22).  Man and woman are the same and also different: equally human, equally made in the image of God, equally possessed of all the dignity that implies, yet different from one another.

There are some differences that make it hard for things to fit together.  But man and woman are made for each other; man and woman are complementary.  In marriage, these two, different and complementary, are united—the two become one.

Husband and wife enter into a life-long covenant union, forged in love, bound by promise, and blessed by God Almighty.  That is the wonder and splendor of marriage.

The spiritual message of this union is that it is a picture of the union with God for which mankind is created, which we have lost in the fall, for which we long, and which the Christian finds in the gospel, by faith in Jesus Christ, for the church is the bride of Christ.

And so this union of marriage is a holy parable of the divine design.  Every Christian marriage, grounded in the love of God, strengthened by the gospel of Jesus Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, is to be a testimony to God’s creative power and redeeming work.

The Final Word

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This week’s Tuesday Tea-ology focused on the finality of Scripture; the relevance of this aspect of the authority of God’s Word is easy to illustrate.  Consider, for instance, the current convulsions in the Church of England.

            The C of E has seen tragic theological degeneration over the years—though, like many liberalizing Christian bodies, they have remnants of orthodoxy in the ranks.  And, like other liberalizing bodies, the temptation to compromise with the world is very strong in the area of sexual morality.

            At the beginning of 2020, I saw with some surprise that the C of E managed even the banal statement that “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings”—a notably anemic statement compared to the strong words Scripture has for homosexual relationships, but more orthodox than I would have expected from the Church of England.

            But the pleasant surprise of orthodox theological anthropology coming from the C of E was short-lived.  The archbishops of Canterbury and York swiftly apologized for having been so insensitive as to maintain basic Christian moral teaching.  Such a move, they hold, was inappropriate, considering that the C of E is presently engaged in deciding whether or not they still hold to Christian sexual ethics—these matters are being re-evaluated in something called “the Living in Love and Faith project.”

            That is the setup.  The other day, news came that this project has yielded up its fruits, and the C of E will now, according to the Christian Post, “begin a formal ‘discernment and decision-making’ process ‘about a way forward for the church’ in regards to its teachings on sex, sexuality and marriage.”  Though the description is broad, and apparently does consider the issues generally, same-sex marriage appears to be the focal point.

            Considerable sophistry can be involved in these situations.  A discernment process sounds careful, perhaps even reverent; but, when what you are trying to discern is whether or not to obey God, it turns out to be a process of deliberate rebellion.  Engaging in a thorough discernment process to decide whether or not to declare stealing or adultery valid, to offer a parallel example, signals not wisdom but moral frailty.  Even considering redefining marriage to accommodate sexual immorality is a denial of God’s authority, of the finality of God’s Word.

            From the description, this discernment process is based on a three-year study “to help people participate in honest discussions, listen to life stories and understand each other’s views.”  Honest discussions are good (much better than dishonest discussions!); listening to people’s stories is important; understanding one another’s views is valuable.  But none of that has any bearing on the church’s doctrine regarding human sexuality.

            That is the application of the finality of Scripture.  God’s Word is final.  The authority of Scripture overrules human experience, and declares us in the wrong when we attempt to contradict God.  The Bible also overrules human rationalizing, theorizing, moralizing, philosophizing, obfuscating, and platituding—any and all reasoning and rhetoric that goes against what God has spoken.  God is God, and what He says goes.

            God created human beings, He knows what is best for us, and what He says goes.  He designed man and marriage; they are not ours to redesign or redefine.  To re-evaluate marriage in light of honest discussions, life experiences, and our views is to reject God’s authority as Maker and Master, Lord of life.  God has spoken very clearly about these matters.

            And God’s Word is final.

The Nearness of God

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“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, ESV).

            From deliverance to providential care, the psalm reaches reflection on the justice of God.  He who looks to the righteous and hears them call, also turns His face against the wicked (v.16).  God’s redeeming favor rests upon the righteous (v.17); but that does not detract from God’s compassion to the needy, as verse 18 emphasizes.  God has compassion upon those who struggle beneath life’s burdens.

            God cares about the sorrows in your life.  God is kind and gracious, merciful to the hurting and the hope of those who despair.  Call out to Him in times of trouble, and find your peace in the nearness of the merciful King.

God Sees, God Hears

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“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry” (Psalm 34:15, ESV).

            David’s praise turns from God’s deliverance to His gracious provision.  God blesses and cares for those who seek Him (vv.9-10), and following God is the way of life (vv.11-14).  God sees His people and hears them when they cry out; God cares about our needs and hurts, and can carry us through all the struggles of this life.

            Our trials are never out of God’s sight, and our cries are never beyond His hearing.  His omnipresence is the greatest comfort to His children, because we know that our heavenly Father has us in His care, whatever we go through.  Turn to Him with your needs and fears, and take refuge in the Almighty.

Taste and See

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“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, ESV).

            David has been reflecting on the goodness of God, who saves those who cry out to Him.  He has experienced God’s deliverance (vv.4-6), and attests the Lord’s protection of His people—“those who fear him” (v.7).  Now he calls people to experience for themselves God’s goodness, using the profoundly sensory language of tasting.  God can be known, and His kindness enjoyed by those who turn to Him.

            God is good, and we can know Him.  This is one dimension of the gospel promise: by faith in Jesus Christ, we can take refuge in God, and know His kindness and protection.  Take your burdens and fears to the Lord; He is strong to save all who call upon Him.

Radiant

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“I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:4-5).

            David declares the mighty deliverance of God in this psalm; God is extolled in the words of His grateful servant, and others are urged to join in the praise (vv.1-3).  This is the testimony of one who has experienced the Lord’s rescue.  He declares God’s faithfulness, that others may look to the Lord, and find salvation.

            God can deliver us from all our fears.  No situation is beyond His power, no person is beyond the reach of His redeeming love.  The testimonies of the saints throughout the ages, even in Old Testament times, should be a great encouragement as we face our own struggles.  God has redeemed His people; God can lift you up, and make you radiant, victorious and unashamed.

His Steadfast Love

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“Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22, ESV).

            Having observed the power of God the Creator (vv.1-9) and the sovereignty of God over the wicked and the righteous (vv.10-19)—a matter of judgment upon the wicked, but of salvation for those who love the Lord—the psalmist completes Psalm 33 with a declaration of trust and dependence upon the Lord (vv.20-22).  God is our hope, and we rest ourselves in His compassion and mighty power to save.

            Take refuge in the steadfast love of the Lord.  In trouble, in temptation, in failure and danger, this is our hope—the wondrous compassion of God.  God’s love is steadfast, faithful, unfailing; He has compassion on those who call upon Him, and lifts up the weak and the brokenhearted.  Rely today on the Lord, who is kind, and able to save