Friday, June 29, 2012

Quote of the Day #209 - F. W. Krummacher

A quote from F. W. Krummacher on the importance of not relying on past experiences:
There are many Christians who know of no other nourishment for their inward life than the moldy bread of long past experience. But no true peace results from this. Inward religion does not consist in a life of morbid security, arising from the recollection of having once received the forgiveness of sins. Where a real spiritual life exists, there is also constant activity, unceasing striving against sin, repeated humiliation before God, and renewed experience of His favor. Were it otherwise, why should the Lord put into His children’s lips the daily petition, "Forgive us our trespasses!"
~F. W. Krummacher (The Suffering Saviour, Chapter 4)

This quote was taken from Samuel Jackson's translation of F. W. Krummacher's book The Suffering Saviour: Meditations On The Last Days Of Christ.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Herod's Murderous Plot - Matthew 2:16 Bible Commentary

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16)
Herod was the king over Israel. No one else could claim the title. Anyone who tried would receive no mercy. Herod had come too close to death— too close to losing his throne to rivals— to ignore even a single potential rival.

At one point in his career, Herod had lost his throne to a rival. Yet Herod was a master politician. According to Josephus (a first century Jewish historian) Herod fled to Rome where he formed an alliance (The Wars Of The Jews 1.14.3-4) Eventually, he mounted a force large enough to retake Jerusalem (1.18).

Herod trusted no one. Like many politicians, he did what he did to advance his name and power. He was above the common law, and he lived for his own glory. When he faced cruelties in life— such as the times when his father and siblings died in enemy hands— he did not respond by looking to the God of Israel. Instead, he responded with greater cruelty.

By the end of his life, Herod was a bitter, angry tyrant. It was in those final years that the wise men visited Herod. If Herod had expected lavish gifts and praise from them, he must have been disappointed; for they brought him news of yet another potential rival. Doubtless, this rival must have seemed somewhat different to Herod: this rival was still a child, and yet, He was already being referred to as the King of the Jews!

Whether or not Herod was aware of the prophecies concerning this King of the Jews is unknown. There is no doubt, however, that Herod saw Jesus as a rival to his throne. For even though Jesus was a child, wise men from the East were already seeking to worship Him!

Herod instructed the wise men to tell him where Jesus was. After all, he too wished to worship Jesus. Obviously, Herod was lying. For he wanted nothing more than to kill Jesus. And so, after the wise men departed on that troubling night, Herod waited.

And he waited.

And he waited some more. But the wise men did not come back.

Herod's murderous anger grew. It rose higher and higher. And just as a volcano's magma can rise only so high before spewing out, so too did Herod's anger. When he realized at last that he had been tricked, the final trigger was pulled. Herod's flaming anger erupted, and all the heat was poured out on the tiny town of Bethlehem.

Sadly, Herod's life was characterized by such eruptions of anger. Aside from his outburst recorded in the Scriptures, none other characterizes Herod as well as the atrocities he ordered to be carried out on his deathbed. Josephus writes of this incident:
He [Herod] then returned back and came to Jericho, in such a melancholy state of body as almost threatened him with present death, when he proceeded to attempt a horrid wickedness; for he got together the most illustrious men of the whole Jewish nation, out of every village, into a place called the Hippodrome, and there shut them in. He then called for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and made this speech to them: "I know well enough that the Jews will keep a festival upon my death however, it is in my power to be mourned for on other accounts, and to have a splendid funeral, if you will but be subservient to my commands. Do you but take care to send soldiers to encompass these men that are now in custody, and slay them immediately upon my death, and then all Judea, and every family of them, will weep at it, whether they will or no." (1.33.6)
Josephus also tells us that Herod was thrilled on his deathbed (five days before died) when he received permission from Rome to execute his son, a potential threat to his throne (1.33.7).

What a pitiful life Herod lived! And yet, this is what the end of life looks like for every unbeliever. There is no hope for the unbeliever after death. Thus the unbeliever desperately clings onto life, for he has nothing else to hope in but himself. But oh how different it is for the believer! For the believer, there is hope beyond death. Believers depart this life in peace, knowing that they will be ruled forever by the true King of Israel: Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Heaven Will Be Different Than The Garden Of Eden

Have you ever thought about how heaven is going to be perfect, just like the Garden of Eden? I will confess that I also once had this foolish thought. Yes, you read that right: foolish.

You have probably heard people say that the Garden of Eden was "perfect". Since heaven can also be described as "perfect," you have probably subconsciously equated the Garden with Heaven. But this is a mistake. Although the Garden and Heaven can both be described as perfect, they are perfect in two different senses.

The Garden was perfect in the sense that it was part of God's sovereign plan for history; God created the Garden for a specific purpose, and it fulfilled that purpose perfectly. The Garden can also be described as perfect since it was (at first) untainted by the stain of sin.

Yet in spite of the Garden's many perfections, Heaven will be better. In fact, in comparison to Heaven, the Garden should be undesirable. Why? Because sin was a possibility in the garden! Though the Garden was perfect in many ways, it was lacking in an essential perfection: the assurance that sin would never occur! Heaven is superior to the Garden because in Heaven sin will no longer be a possibility!

Can you imagine the horror of living in a place like the Garden of Eden for all of eternity? A place where you could fall into sin at any moment? A place where even after a hundred or a thousand or a billion years had passed, you would still have no assurance that you would continue in faithfulness to God? Every day would be one more day in which there would be a possibility of falling. Could such a place rightly be called "heaven"? There's a reason the Garden of Eden didn't last forever, because it would not have been heaven.

Don't get caught up in the language that God is planning to one day restore creation to exactly how it was in the beginning. He isn't. Instead, He's planning on doing something better. Much better.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Jesus' Exodus From Egypt: Hosea's Words Fulfilled - Matthew 2:15 Bible Commentary

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:13-15)
As he does many times in his gospel, Matthew quotes an Old Testament prophecy about Christ, this time from Hosea:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
(Hosea 11:1)
Just as God had brought Israel out of Egypt by His power so many years ago, so too would He bring the Christ back out of Egypt.

By including part of this quote from Hosea 11:1, Matthew wants us to see that all of the Old Testament points to Christ. Indeed, one of the greatest events in Israel's history, the Exodus, points to the Christ— for 1500 years after that famous First Exodus, Christ had an Exodus of His own.

Indeed, all believers have experienced an exodus. If you are a child of God, you have been called out of Pharaoh's regime. You are no longer enslaved to Satan! You are no longer entrapped by sin, uselessly spending your days beating together brick and mortar, driven along by an unforgiving taskmaster. You are now redeemed and forgiven! Praise Him this day, and every day, for calling you out of the land of darkness and into His heavenly, eternal kingdom!

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Quote of the Day #208 - William Gurnall

A quote from William Gurnall, addressing why there are varying beliefs within Christianity:
How can a person know for sure what is truth when there are so many different beliefs in Christianity? Some have stumbled so hard on religious dissension that they have abandoned the truth they once held; and while they are not stranded on the island of atheism they have been driven out into uncertainty, unwilling to anchor their judgments until they see a present resolution of all differences of judgment and opinion to find unity in every aspect of our religion. Surely they are as foolish as the man who refused to eat until all clocks in the city struck twelve at exactly the same time.
~William Gurnall (The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2, Chapter 1, Part 1).

This quote was taken from the book The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2 - A modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall, published by Banner Of Truth.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Jesus' Flight To Egypt: The Command From The Angel - Matthew 2:13-15 Bible Commentary

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:13-15)
So often in our lives the greatest, most joyous moments are followed by unexpected dangers or tragedies. The storm clouds roll over the blissful sunshine and we remember that the world is still fallen and in need of the Saviour.

Mary and Joseph also experienced this sudden change from joy to danger. Not too long ago, the Magi had presented gifts of tremendous value to Jesus. They had fallen down and worshiped Him. But the gleam and glimmer of that moment— the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh— did not consume Mary and Joseph's thoughts for long.

When an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph one night in a dream, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt," Joseph must have quickly forgotten about the gifts from the wise men.

This was not the first time an angel of the Lord had visited Joesph. Just a few years ago, an angel had visited him in his dreams, commanding him to take Mary as his wife and name the child that she was pregnant with "Jesus".

Joseph had obeyed the angel the first time— and he must have been glad that he had. Over the past few years, he had seen God work in ways that few others had. The shepherds that appeared to them on that night when Jesus was born were especially interesting, so too was the news of the multitude of angels that had appeared to the shepherds, proclaiming, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14). Not only that, but there was also Simeon and Ana, who had spoken the most marvelous of things over their Child (Luke 2:25-28). And now, about two years later, wise men had visited!

If Joseph had questioned whether to obey the angel of the Lord before Jesus' birth— and it doesn't seem that he did— then how much more quickly must he have obeyed the angel after Jesus' birth? Joseph now had a better idea of who his "son" was. And so, Joseph obeyed the angel, probably without hesitation.

While darkness still engulfed Bethlehem, probably immediately after the dream concluded, Joseph arose. He, Mary, and Jesus needed to leave now. They needed to leave before Herod's sword came upon them. Joseph must have packed his family's belongings quickly, waking Mary in the process to explain their urgent need to leave.

See now the toddler Christ, departing Bethlehem with His earthly parents. Just as there was no room for Him in the inn, so too there was now no longer room for Him in Bethlehem.

The first years of Christ's life were spent traveling the countryside. Though He found some stability in Nazareth, the end of His life was characterized by the same sort of travel. Recall those striking words that Jesus spoke later in His life, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).

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