Thursday, December 24, 2015

The King of Hearts

“And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation…saying that he himself is Christ a King.” - Luke 23:2

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the question was one of authority. He was accused of claiming to be a king. And when Pilate, in the next verse, asked Him outright, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” Jesus responded, “Thou sayest it.” (“You said it!) Even a casual reading of the Bible would tell you that its most undeniable truth is that Jesus Christ was and is King of Heaven and earth. He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). He was a king before He was born; and He was born The King. He is “the King of saints” (Rev. 15:3).

You see, before you and I were born, we did not exist, except in the mind of God, but God, the Son, existed throughout all eternity past. Mary may not have understood all of this, but she did know that God meant for her Son to one day sit on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). As a song I love to sing at Christmas puts it: “From the cradle to the Cross to David’s throne/From the cradle to the Cross to David’s throne/Little King Jesus, born in a manger/Coming back someday to claim us for his own.”

It is only fitting that a king should receive gifts and homage from his subjects. The three wise men understood this, even though the King was just a Baby. But what can you and I give to such a King? For as David said, all things come from God, therefore we can only give what came from Him in the first place (1 Chron. 29:14). In the case of our King, we already know the gift that will please Him most. “My son [and daughter], give me thine heart” (Prov.23:26). He wants what is inside of us that makes us who we are. 

He rules today in power, but one day He will rule in Person. And when He does, the question will be, “Is He the King of my heart?” In my first morning prayer, I acknowledge Him as my Father, my Savior, and my King. I tell Him to rule and reign in my heart this day. 

Who is the King of your heart? Who reigns as Absolute Monarch with unquestioned authority? Will you bow the knees of your heart now and say with the song writer… “King of my life, I crown Thee now…

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Other Incarnation

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39

         Did you know that the word “incarnate” has another meaning besides the one we are most familiar with: a person who embodies in flesh a deity as in the Incarnation of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ.” But there is at least one other meaning: “to put (an idea or another abstract concept) into concrete form.”

         I know this because I recently was reminded of a great old hymn of the Church, entitled, “O Word of God Incarnate,” written by William W. How. It had been so long since I heard that I had forgotten that is wasn’t about Jesus Christ, who we know from John one is the Incarnation of the Word of God. When I read the song again, I saw that it was not about Him, though, which made me curious about the other meaning:  

         O Word of God incarnate, O wisdom from on high,
         O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky:
         We praise You for the radiance the from the hallowed page,
         A Lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.

         The Church from You, our Savior, received the Gift divine,
         And still that Light is lifted over all the earth to shine.
         It is the sacred Vessel where gems of truth are stored;
         It is the heaven drawn Picture of Christ, the Living Word.

         The Word of God is “settled in heaven” and it “liveth and abideth forever.” But it was an “abstract concept,” as far as we were concerned, until God gave it to us in “concrete form.” Jesus called it “the scriptures,” something written down. And lest we think this incarnation is of less importance than His, Jesus told us words of this incarnation hold the message of eternal life, and they speak of Him.

History would have told us that Jesus died, but Paul told us He died for our sins; that’s New Testament doctrine, “according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). Without the Scriptures, we would never know that the birth of Jesus Christ was the Incarnation of God. Indeed, those who refuse to accept the Bible, as it is in truth, the Word of God, would argue that it wasn’t. In his book, Taking God At His Word, Kevin DeYoung speaking of the importance of the written Word, says: “All this matters because it means the authority of God’s word resides in the written text–the words, the sentences, the paragraphs–of Scripture, not merely in our existential experience of the truth in our hearts. Some people don’t like written text and propositions because they imply a stable, fixed meaning, and people don’t want truth to be fixed.”

         This year, as we celebrate the Incarnation of the living Word of God in human form, Jesus Christ, let’s not forget to celebrate the other incarnation, the one that gave us the living Words of God, the Holy Scriptures. Believe it, handle it, open it daily, cherish it, consume it, and follow its percepts, knowing it is God’s final word and our only Authority.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What a Pity!

 “…Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” – James 5:11

         Does it not seem strange that as an example of God’s pity, James offers Job’s story? I can think of other instances in Scripture where God or Jesus had compassion on someone in need, and more to the point, someone whose need was not a direct result God intervening in his or her seemingly tranquil life. I’ve heard preachers say, “Job got in trouble because God bragged on him!” (Job 1:6-8). And it does seem that way. But, of course, you and I have the advantage of hindsight. We know the end of the story. We have “seen the end of the Lord.”  We know that “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12); and it wasn’t just materially and physically. As Job himself witnessed “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5). But, as I say, while he was in the throes of his great trial of faith, God must have seemed anything but “pitiful” to him.

         By the way, don’t get hung-up on the word “pitiful,” any more than “careful” in Philippians four six. It means just what it says: full of pity, as the great old hymn of the Church says, “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love, and grace.” As with so many of our English words, we have added meanings, but Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines it best: “Full of pity; tender; compassionate; having a heart to feel sorrow and sympathy for the distressed. [This is the proper sense of the word.]”

And truly, that is our God! Isaiah says of Him and His relationship to His children, Israel: “In all their affliction he was afflicted…in his pity he redeemed them…” (Isa. 63:9). King David tells us, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psl. 103:13). You and I, as Blood-bought children of God, have a Heavenly Father whose pity is akin to that of an earthly father, but without it’s human limitations. It is unwavering, inexhaustible, and unfathomable. We have no redeeming qualities, yet He redeemed us. When He allows pain, grief, and sorrow, He wipes away our tears with His very presence. And if He still had the tears of His earthly Body, He would weep along with us, as He did at Lazarus’ grave.

I am so thankful that my God is “very pitiful.” I need that kind of pity. I may be undeserving, but because of Calvary, I’m eligible. There is no pity like His. What a comfort…what a God…and what a pity!