Two Alternate Paths to Take in Life

thoreau_1050x700Henry David Thoreau, in his classic Walden, sets forth two alternate paths that lie before each of us: One is broad, common and natural. The other is narrow, uncommon and supernatural:

 

” The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation
and go to the grave with the song still in them.
What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
A stereotyped but unconscious despair
is concealed under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.
However, I would fain improve every opportunity
to wonder and worship as a sunflower welcomes the light.”

Advent is a season to “improve every opportunity to wonder and worship” our Savior who is Christ the Lord!

One Neglected Implication of Jesus’ Incarnation

Donald Macleod, Scottish theologian and professor, writes:

“How often is the incarnation brought before God’s people as their chief incentive and motivation to service. Paul urges us to think the way Jesus thought. He humbled himself. He made himself nothing (Philippians 2:3-8). He said, ‘I don’t matter!’

There is scarcely a month that a church is not wrecked by Somebody. That is the whole problem: There is always a Somebody. If we were willing to humble ourselves and be nobodies, the church would not be wrecked. That is what the church needs: Nobodies who have crucified their egos and left them on the far side of that great word of Jesus: ‘Let a man deny himself’ (Mark 8:34).”

Why did the incarnation of Jesus Christ take place?

 

During the Advent season,

we remember that it was real flesh that Christ took;

not the image of a body, but a true body.

In the creation, man was made in God’s image;

in the incarnation God was made in man’s image.

Was there no other way for the restoring of fallen man

but that God should take flesh?

We must not ask for a reason for God’s will.

It is dangerous to pry into God’s ark.

We are not to dispute but adore.

The wise God saw it to be the best way for our redemption –

that Christ should be incarnate.

It was not fit for any to satisfy God’s justice but man;

But none could do it but God;

Therefore, Christ being both God and man,

is the only one fit to undertake this work of redemption.

  • Adapted from Thomas Watson

At Christmas, it does the soul well to reflect on the humiliation our Lord endured for us.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 27 explains it succinctly and completely:

Q27. How was Christ humiliated?

Christ was humiliated:

by being born as a man and born into a poor family;

by being made subject to the law

and suffering the miseries of this life,

the wrath of God, and the curse of death on the cross;

and by being buried

and remaining under the power of death for a time.

How can we not gladly surrender all to one who sacrificed so much for us?

 

A Psalm Prayer for an Election Year

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-04-39-amPsalm 2 teaches believers how to counter the bullying world that intimidates them to retreat and hide.  We learn that the LORD’s Anointed One (Messiah) is personally and powerfully involved in this world, rescuing and ruling it for His glory and His people’s good.

How is Jesus Christ the LORD’s King? He is the Son who rules for his Father (2:7-8). There is a twofold kingdom of God committed to Jesus Christ: First, a spiritual kingdom by which he rules in the hearts of His people; and, second, a providential kingdom by which he rules the affairs of this world. During an election year, it is very important for us to remember His providential rule.

Psalm 2 paints an exalted picture of Jesus Christ. This heavenly prince rules all the kings of the earth, judges all the nations, crushes all of God’s enemies, defends and protects all of God’s people, marries His Bride – the Church, and fulfills the promised hope of David’s eternal throne. No wonder this Royal Psalm ends with the exclamation, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps. 2:12).

A Psalm Prayer:

Gracious Father, thank you for the future hope
that all the nations that rage against You
will become the inheritance of the Messiah.
You have given to Your Son our Savior
the ends of the earth as His possession.
He declares triumphantly
that all authority in heaven and on earth is rightfully His.
Based upon that authority,
we pray that you would supernaturally cause a massive ingathering of souls
who would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have mercy upon them,
open blind eyes like you did long ago,
pour the wine of your love and Word on calloused, stony hearts.
Raise up a group of young people throughout the world
who devotedly kiss Your Son as Savior.
May they serve You with fear and rejoice with trembling
as they contemplate your loving reign in their hearts as King,
but also as a just judge who will come again with a rod of iron
to break all those who resist Your reign. AMEN.

The Sweet Exchange of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There is not a better prayer that beautifully speaks of the mysterious, sweet exchange that takes place when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Lustres at Calvary

519bbajnjglMy Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on your Son,

Made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of Your justice smote the man, Your fellow;

There Your infinite attributes were magnified,

And infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

And infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

Cast off that I might be brought in,

Trodden down as an enemy

That I might be welcomed as a friend,

Surrendered to hell’s worst

That I might attain heaven’s best,

Stripped that I might be clothed

Wounded that I might be healed,

Athirst that I might drink,

Tormented that I might be comforted,

Made a shame that I might inherit glory.

Entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Savior wept so that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

Groaned that I might have endless song,

Endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

Bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

Bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

Experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

Closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

Expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not Your only Son that You might spare me,

All this transfer Your love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore You by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

My every step buoyant with delight, as I see…

My enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

Sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

Hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O Conquering God, and show me the cross,

Mighty to subdue, comfort, and save.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1975, pp.42-43.

 

An Increasing View of the Infinite Dignity of Jesus Christ

hawkers_portraitThanks to my good friend David Elmore I know of the esteemed Robert Hawker, an evangelical Anglican minister back in the late 1700s and early 1800s. His devotional The Poor Man’s Morning & Evening Portions can be assessed here:

Poor Man’s Morning & Evening Portions

Here is a lovely thought of his that I am thinking about and praying through this week:

  • That I may have increasing views of the infinite dignity of His person, work, merit, offices, relations, characters, and in short, everything that relates to one so dear, so lovely, so glorious, and so suited to a poor sinner like me, as the Lord Jesus Christ is in all things.
Robert Hawker, The Poor Man’s Morning & Evening Portions

Reflections on the Exclusive Claim of Jesus

In John 14:6, Jesus says to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The exclusivity of this claim is completely offensive in our age of tolerance. Here are a few musings on this claim that have proven helpful to me.

In a world of religious pluralism, anyone making an exclusive truth claim will find opponents who will object not necessarily to the religious system offered, but to the exclusivity of any such claim. In general our age views all religious systems as offering variations on the same theme…to stand in one of these traditions and affirm that there is something ultimate, something unrepeatable, something unparalleled is offensive to the reasoning of our day.

But this is precisely the truth claim we have in Christianity. Jesus does not merely point the way, he is the Way. Jesus does not just teach us truth, he is the Truth. He does not represent one avenue to life, he is the Life. In a word, the human quest for God ends in Jesus Christ.
– Gary Burge

Our substitute, then, who took our place and died our death on the cross, was neither Christ alone (since that would make him a third party thrust in between God and us), nor God alone (since that would undermine the historical incarnation), but God in Christ, who was truly and fully both God and man, and who on that account was uniquely qualified to represent both God and man and to mediate between them.
– John Stott

If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.
 – John Piper

Follow Me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Without the Way, there is no going.
Without the Truth, there is no knowing.
Without the Life, there is no living.
I am the Way which you must follow,
the Truth which you must believe, the Life for which you must hope.
I am the inviolable Way, the infallible Truth, the unending Life.
I am the Way that is straight, the supreme Truth,
the Life that is true,
the blessed, the uncreated Life.
If you abide in My Way you shall know the Truth,
and the Truth shall set you free,
and you shall have life everlasting.
– Thomas A. Kempis