LORD, LIFT UP YOUR FEET!

Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations.
The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary.

(Psalm 74:3)

 

Years ago on a family ski trip my little brother fell and tore the ligaments in his right knee. It was a nasty fall and a nasty injury. When it happened, he let out a cry heard all across the slopes. My father, who had reached the bottom of the hill where we were skiing, heard it too, and instantly turned and headed back up. I can still see him, lifting up his skis, climbing the hill as fast as he could. I can still hear his voice, too: “Hold on son, I’m coming!”

That memorable event supplies a powerful picture of our redemption, as does the text before us. Psalm 74 is the cry of one of God’s children, pleading for help because the enemies of the nation have entered the land and are laying waste to God’s inheritance. All is in desolation. The people are under a severe discipline from the LORD, against whom they have sinned. Like my brother so many years ago, they are down for the count. The psalmist knows they’ll never get up again unless God lifts up his feet and races to their aid.

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SNAKES ON A ROCK

There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the midst of the sea,
And the way of a man with a virgin.

(Proverbs 30:18-19)

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how many of God’s creatures like to bask.

Our pet rabbit likes to lie on the grass, stretch out his fore and hind legs, and bask in the sun.

The seals down at Goat Rock, braving the gawkers on the beach, will lie on the sand at the river’s mouth for hours on end and bask in the sun.

Basking sharks, I assume, enjoy swimming near the surface of the water so they can bask in the sun.

Mulling all of this, I suddenly remembered that Solomon, too, was intrigued by baskers. As he thought about the four wonders mentioned above, he knew there was a spiritual significance attached to each of them—and that he couldn’t see it.

But we who are in Christ can!

That’s because the New Testament repeatedly tells us that Christ is our Rock; and also that we—who once had a nature and a standing like that old serpent, the devil—are nevertheless loved by God, who lifted us out of our holes in the earth, and set safely upon the Rock of His Son.

We’re snakes all right. But thanks be to God, the Father no longer sees us that way. Because we’re in Christ, he sees us as sons. Therefore, we can bask in the healing and warming light of his love, with no fear of getting picked off!

So next time you’re feeling low and mean—even downright snakey—take a lesson from the rabbits, the seals, the sharks, the lizards, and all the other baskers.

Remember that you’re on the Rock—and then spend a little time just basking in the Father’s love.

 

Dear Aunt Tracy:

The Great End Time Debate Clarified for Busy Homemakers

 

Actually, Aunt Tracy is my sister-in-law. However, she is indeed a most excellent and busy homemaker.

For that reason—and also because she is delving into Isaiah at Ladies Bible Study Fellowship—she asked me to write something SHORT on the question of the millennium (Revelation 20).

If you know me at all, you know I don’t do short. Nevertheless, I trust that the following letter—which was short by MY standards—proved helpful to her.

I post it here (with some non-short emendations) in hopes that it will also be of use to anyone else who may be looking for a brief introduction to the Great End Time Debate.

To take a look-see, please click here.

 ” . . . that all should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.”

(John 5:23)

Cosmology is the study of the origin, structure, purpose, and destiny of our universe. Now that’s a topic to wrap your head around!

I am guessing that most folks today doubt we can ever be sure about such lofty and complex matters. But here’s a thought to consider: Doesn’t the very fact that we’re able to ponder these questions imply that our minds were actually created to find the answers? Cosmological skeptics may moan and groan, but surely it is not without significance that nearly all of us remain incurably curious about cosmology!

Could it be, then, that we we were meant to behold and enjoy the one true cosmology—and that any religion or philosophy that hopes to win the allegiance of thoughtful people must offer us one?

No doubt. But if that cosmology is to prevail in the war of the worldviews, it will have to be a good one: clear, comprehensive, logical, well-supported by good evidence, and full of hope for a suffering humanity that knows there’s a god, but is having difficulty discovering his truth about the world he created.

Having studied naturalistic, pantheistic, and theistic cosmologies for many years, I have concluded that Biblical Cosmology meets all these criteria, and that it does so far better than any other contestant in the ring. Indeed, I am  convinced that here we reach the spiritual and philosophical home our hearts were made for.

Yes, its teachings run hard against the grain of  the cosmological “wisdom” of modern man. And yes, because of this, many Christians are reluctant to study, formulate, embrace, and defend a deeply biblical cosmology.

However, such cosmological conflict should not surprise or demoralize intellectually hungry believers. Has not God said that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to him, and that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men? In such a universe, does it make sense for the lovers of truth to let the majority rule?!

If, then, Christians would only dig a little deeper into these matters, and let the Spirit of Truth perform His wonderful work of illumination, I believe they would find, to their amazement and joy, that in his Word God  really has graciously granted us the full spectrum of cosmological truth for which we, by our very nature as creatures in his image an likeness, are ever hungering!

A blog is not the place to explore Biblical Cosmology in detail, or to defend it from Scripture, history, philosophy, and science. It is, however, an excellent place to pique your curiosity about this fascinating and most important of subject.

Lord willing, I will do so from time to time in the months ahead. Today, I offer installment number one: the HEART of Biblical Cosmology. Your comments and questions are most welcome!

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Leaning Trees of Worship

By faith, Jacob, when he was dying,

blessed each of the sons of Joseph,

and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

(Heb. 11:21)

 

Joseph was displeased. His father Jacob had just extended his right hand, laid it on Ephraim’s head, and blessed him. Then, with his left hand, he had done the same for Manasseh.

But Manasseh was the older, the first-born! By rights, by custom, by time-honored tradition, the greater blessing—the blessing of the right hand—should have fallen upon him!

Having explained it to Joseph as best he could, Jacob rose from his bed, stood on his feet, took up his staff, leaned comfortingly upon it, and worshiped.

As he prayed, he reflected: Ever since that night at the ford of Jabbok it had been this way. Before the wrestling, he had indeed honored the LORD, but also walked tall, confident, and self-assured, guided by the wisdom of man.

But afterwards—after the Angel touched the socket of his hip, blessed him, and changed his name to Israel—he had walked with a limp, leaning upon his staff. And in so doing, he had somehow learned to receive the word of the LORD—the inheritance of wisdom from above—and to bestow it upon the beloved children of God.

If only Joseph could understand.

 

Of Pillars and Leaning Trees

In our mixed up world there are two postures of worship.

The first is that of a pillar. In exemplary fashion, it was struck long ago by the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. Standing very tall and very erect, he said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess!” A pillar of righteousness, in his own sight.

The second posture is that of a leaning tree. In exemplary fashion, it too was struck in Jesus’ parable, this time by a trembling tax collector. Standing far off, unwilling even to raise his eyes to heaven, he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Can you not see him leaning? He is leaning far, far away from himself, his character, and his accomplishments, all of which, in his own eyesight, seem like iron chains, ready to drag him down to hell. Can you not see him leaning, as far and as hard as he possibly can into the strong wind of God’s raw mercy.

A leaning tree of worship—who alone, according to Jesus, returned to his house justified in God’s sight.

 

Learning to Lean

But we dare not misunderstand.

To be sure, God is merciful: His great Father heart inclines him to it always. But his holiness, sovereignty, and paternal responsibility for the proper government of his world do not permit him simply to show mercy at his pleasure. No, he must show mercy by finding a way to satisfy his own justice, placate his own anger, and make guilty tax collectors—as well as self-centered Pharisees—righteous in his sight.

Just here we meet the Glad Tidings: In Christ Jesus—the Staff of God—he has done this very thing.

By his perfectly righteous life, he has won a perfect righteousness for all—for all who will lean on him.

By his atoning death, he has paid the just penalty for the sins of all, and placated the divine wrath against all—all who will lean on him.

Before Christ had finished his course, the poor tax collector cried out to God for mercy—and trembled in fear and uncertainty. Had he cried out after Pentecost, God would have replied, “Lean on the Staff that I have just provided, and like Jacob of old you shall have mercy, and a new name besides: Prince with God, and My Beloved Son in Whom I am Well Pleased!”

 

Princely Sons

When I imagine the aged Jacob standing before Joseph and his sons, leaning upon his staff and worshiping the One who had lovingly brought him so near, I think I hear him saying, “LORD, bring them all to an understanding; but as you do, please, be as gentle as you can.”

For it is no light thing to become a leaning tree of worship. The Angel of the LORD himself must come to you by night. He must cast his dreadful gaze upon the libertine—or the proud, self-righteous Pharisee—within. And he must also cast your gaze upon the heavenly wrath and hellish torments that the libertine and the Pharisee so richly deserve.

Moreover, if he does come, you must not let him go. Rather, in fear and trembling, you must wrestle until you prevail; until you receive the holy wound with which you will walk—haltingly and in frequent pain—for the rest of your days. And you must wrestle until you receive the holy Staff that will enable you to do so.

No, it is no light thing to become a leaning tree. And yet, for the sinful sons of Adam, there is no richer gift, no higher honor, no sweeter pleasure. For now, having become such a tree, you learn to worship.

Since it is precious in your sight, you take your Staff in hand and say, “Thank you God for having mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you for the visitation, the wrestling, the wounding, the placing of your dear Son securely beneath my arm. Thank you that I can now walk—be it ever so haltingly—in your holy presence.

“But most of all, thank you for my strong Staff. Thank you for placing my sins upon him. Thank you for placing his righteousness upon me. And thank you for placing his Spirit deep within, that I might become a Christ-centered son, rather than remain a self-centered sinner.”

Beloveds, the eyes of our heavenly Father are seeking all over the world for worshipers like this. Truly, they are the joy of his heart.

And if you are among them—standing before his throne, leaning upon your Staff—be prepared! For like Jacob of old, you are sure to find yourself filled with the Spirit, and receiving words of wisdom from above.

When you do, simply extend your hands, lay them on the heads of God’s dear children (as he directs!), and speak the words boldly.

Behold, they too will become trees of worship, leaning on their Staff; they too will receive the inheritance of the princely sons of God!