Monday, August 31, 2015

How Lovely I - Intro


Based on Psalm 84
A Sermon.

Dwelling Places

What are the Lord's dwelling places or tabernacles as mentioned in verse 1 of Psalm 84? What are the implications of these places? In this brief introduction, we will explore the six places mentioned in this Psalm which qualify as a dwelling place of the Lord.

What follows is an exercise in word association. I simply wrote the first thing that came to my mind when considering the term. Perhaps it's not the best association, but I believe it rings true to scripture.

The Courts

"My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord"
— Psalm 84.2 NASB
Holiness. The courts were a holy place in the sense of separation. One could not simply waltz into a king's court, one must be summoned. The same holds true for a judge's court — does a 'court summons' ring a bell? This is a place that is accessible by invitation only.

Further, one's behavior is also altered by this place. You do not behave in the King's Court the same way you behave in your own home. You do not behave before the Justice the way you would at a restaurant. Your behavior is also set apart (holy) in these places.

Note that the holy behavior is demonstrated in the court because that is where the King is present. It's not because the room is sacred, but because our God is sacred. God is a God of holiness. He is totally and completely separated from us in every way. His ways are higher, greater, purer than ours. This is his holiness. The fact that He wants us in his courts is a mind-blowing truth.

The Altar

"Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts"
— Psalm 84.3 NASB
Justice. How could a God of such holiness ever invite us into His courts? How could we stand to be in His presence? As a just God, He must punish iniquity and man's mark is nothing more than iniquity upon iniquity. Therefore, the only reason God would have to invite us into His presence would be to execute judgement.

Enter the altar. The provision that God has made for man to come into His holy presence. God's conundrum is such: He is holy and must punish sin with a death sentence, but He is love and longs to forgive. By executing a death sentence on a substitute, God's justice is satisfied and man is free to stand in His courts. In the old testament, this was done through the blood of bulls and goats but now in the perfect death of His Son.

The House

"How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!"
— Psalm 84.4 NASB
Rest. Home is where we can kick off our shoes, loosen our belts and relax. We don't have to keep up pretenses or impress the boss. Why can we be ourselves? Because we are with the people we know the best and who know us better than anyone else. We couldn't fool them even if we tried to!

Are you at home with God almighty? Are you trying to fake Him out with the good stuff you do? Don't you know He knows you better than you know yourself? He looks through your pretenses and detects your heart's condition. He can see through your actions and know your innermost thoughts, desires and motivations.

Why dont we just rest in the finished work of Christ? Then we will be at home.

The Heart

"In whose heart are the highways to Zion!"
— Psalm 84.5 NASB
Guidance. I know. The heart is deceitful. I understand, it's desperately wicked. I got you. But we still are motivated and directed by our hearts. It is important to train your heart so that the guidance it provides is good.

Better yet, why not give your heart over to God? When you do that, when He occupies your heart's spaces, you will have the ultimate road map. He will direct your paths when His word is hidden in your heart. He wants to guide you. Let him in!

The Valley

"Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;"
— Psalm 84.6 NASB
Distress. The Valley is a classic picture of distress. It is the geographically low counterpoint to the mountaintop experience. The valley is dark. The valley is obscured. We don't want to be enclosed in the valley, we want to experience the elation of the peak. Yet, with no valley there would be no peak.

Where is God when we are in the valleys of trial and tribulation? He's there. Next to us. Experiencing it with us. We have a Savior who sympathizes with us because he has been there too. While sometimes poetry may seem trivial, but Footprints in the Sand rings true here. God dwells with His people. Even if it means going through the valleys.

Mount Zion

"Every one of them appears before God in Zion."
— Psalm 84.7 NASB
The Establishment. Mount Zion was the established place where God would meet His people and accept their worship. Pilgrimages were made to this mountain and God honored these pilgrims for their faithfulness. God is a personal God who treasures personal relationships with each person He created, but there's also a place for corporate worship.

When we are told not to forsake the assembly, it's not a cold rule that we need to follow. This command is not a badge to put on our sports coat so others can see our holiness. This command is for our benefit. Christ says when 2+ gather together He is in the midst He means it. He wants to join us and commune with us as a body. He meets the pilgrim of Psalm 84 in Zion, He meets the Christian at Church.

Conclusion

This is just the beginning of the Sermon. I have three more posts coming up that deal with the three sections of this Psalm directly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Concerning God


God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.

Exodus 3:14-16

God's Name

I AM. It is God's name. Arguably translated: Jehovah. This is the name of God. Note that this is the only name of God which is not related to what He does. This is God's special name that reveals WHO HE IS. It is the name assigned to the "all changing unchanged one" to quote John Donne. It is an all-encompassing name for an all-powerful God of all things.

From this short passage, He is:
  • The Authority
  • God of the past
  • God of the present
  • God of the future
  • God of Israel
  • God of the Gentile
Yet, here is the most tender of all the things that He is: He is indeed concerned about you. Stop and consider that a while.

This passage, well known for the image of the Burning Bush, is commonly referenced as a high place of God in all his power. He calls Moses and sends him to Pharaoh. He yells at Moses for acting cowardly. He talks of all the wonders that He will perform to prove His authority over Egypt.

But right in the midst of all this machismo, God has a tender moment. He is concerned about His people.

Conclusion

This is the unchanging God we are talking about.
Indeed, He is still concerned about His people.

He is concerned about you.
He wants to deliver you.
Are you still in peril today?
He is indeed concerned about you.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Miracles by C.S. Lewis - Book Review

The Book

Miracles
C. S. Lewis

Intro

As part of my ongoing quest to read every word penned by C. S. Lewis, I recently picked up Miracles. It's part of the boxed set I purchased with birthday money/gift card. Here's the obligatory run down:

A few observations:

  1. Buy this boxed set for someone. It will entertain their brains for years to come. (This boxed set & I go way back to 2012)
  2. For being such a Lewis Lover, I only read one of his books per year. That deflates my ego.
  3. There's something about late summer (July-August) that gives me a hankering for some C. S. Lewis. Anybody else get that?
  4. Mere Christianity & The Screwtape Letters are the only two left in the set. I read & reviewed MC before getting the set (in April!) & I've read TSL a few years ago. TSL deserves it's own review. Hey, the month of August is young!

Review

I have decided to do away with the technical merit section of this particular review. Lewis gets excellent marks for his structure & organization as always. It is important to note that while Miracles is in many ways comparable to Mere Christianity in it's approach, it is actually much more technical, theoretical & abstract than MC. However, there are moments where Lewis' arguments rise from the drudgery of theorem & snaps into sharp focus. Those moments are pure gold.

Naturalism - Is it anti-miracle?

Lewis spends most of his time on this subject. In fact, the title of this book could have been "Nature Versus Supernature" though that title is not very interesting. Lewis deconstructs Naturalism (the idea that Nature is all there is) and leaves the reader with the conclusion that something beyond nature must exist. One poignant argument revolves around the so-called Laws of Nature & the fact that Laws of Nature do nothing without being first thrown into action by a force outside of itself. For instance, nobody ever says they tripped on gravity. People trip on an untied shoelace which causes their body to be in a position where the Law of Gravity takes over. Hence, every Law of Nature must be set in motion by a preceding cause going back to an Original Cause that had to set Nature herself in motion. Christians believe that God is this Uncaused Cause.

Having established that there must be an entity behind Nature—our Supernatural God—Lewis asks about the nature of the miraculous. Many assume the miraculous to be a violation of the Laws of Nature. Lewis argues that this is a wrong perception. If there is a God. If that God can perform the miraculous. If that God created Nature. Why would we suppose miracles to be a violation of nature?
If events ever come from beyond Nature altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it obeys all her laws... The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.
Hence, the moment Jesus multiplies bread, it becomes regular digestible bread. When he creates wine in Cana, it becomes real wine with intoxicating properties. When God's Seed is implanted in Mary's womb, it undergoes the process of gestation, birth, childhood, etc. No Law is suspended. A new event is fed into Nature & Nature rolls with it without a hitch.

Lewis also gets into a discussion on literalism in this book. He detests the idea of people who try to improve on the ancient pictures with something they believe to be more literal. So instead of viewing God as Father, they try to describe Him as Energy. Clearly, the Bible uses specific imagery to get at certain aspects of the divine which our modern imagery does not. Further, when we try to be more precise, we end up creating a ridiculous picture that's harder to believe than the ancient metaphor.

C. S. Lewis does eventually start talking about the Miracles themselves. He tackles the question of the Grand Miracle (The Resurrection) & it's implications for Christians. He argues that the Resurrection is not a new life, but a continuation of the current life only glorified. He argues that this Grand Miracle is the pinnacle of history. Other miracles performed by Jesus affirm his identity as the ultimate Corn King (myth of death and rebirth) which has been rumored since ancient times.

Conclusion

If you have read Mere Christianity a couple times, I urge you to pick up Miracles & give it a shot. I know that I have learned a lot from a single reading and am excited to pick it up again in the near future to see what else can be gleaned from it's pages. If you've never read C. S. Lewis before, this is not the one to start with. While you will doubtless learn a lot, it helps to have a background in MC to understand where Lewis is coming from.

TIP: As you read Miracles, look for lists. Lewis loves his lists and they're really helpful!

Check out a few of my favorite quotes from Miracles. If you need to, you can pause the show on the lower right-hand corner to actually, you know, read them. :)
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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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