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!

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.

Gazing Upon True Beauty

Religious people find God useful for obtaining things in life. Christians find God beautiful and knowing Him is the chief good they seek.

The Psalmist declares in Psalm 27:4 –

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

  • May we see and sense in new ways today how beautiful and lovely our Lord is.
  • May we not settle for little glimpses of His majesty.
  • May He give us the gift of gazing – a sustained focus of His beauty.
  • May we all come to the place where we can’t keep our eyes off of Him!
  • May the Lord so work in all of our hearts today that we find Him beautiful.

Friends, this is not just a nice, little sentimental exercise. It is a spiritual lifeline that will keep you from giving your heart to lesser loves and other beauties that will ultimately lead you into bondage, misery, and despair. True beauty always leads to liberation and lasting joy!

When You Face a Desperate Situation

Psalm 11 teaches us to find our refuge in the Lord.

God of Refuge, how easy it is to pursue safety, security, and deliverance in our own ways and methods as we “flee to the mountains.” However, you are the only refuge. As you look down from heaven and see the foundations of our society being destroyed, LORD have mercy on us. The foundations of justice, truth, duty, honesty, marriage, vows faithfully performed, holiness, and family are being assaulted on all fronts. A fortress mentality and a spirit of discouragement and cynicism can so frequently plague us.

Help us to remember today that:
1. You are not absent from our lives and our country. You are in your throne room of glory where all angels, arch-angels, and saints worship you with joyful and awe-struck hearts (v.4)
2. You are not only there, you reign. Your throne is in heaven and you sit upon it and nothing is outside of your sovereign control (v.4).
3. You are the God who sees. Nothing is hidden from your sight (v.4). You especially see and test Your righteous ones (saints).
4. You are a God who judges those who love violence. Your judgment is spoken in terms descriptive of Sodom and Gomorrah.
5. You are a God whom the righteous alone will see (v.7). We will behold your face.

What a wonderful day that will be. Throughout redemptive history, no one was able to see Your face and live. This future prospect instills hope and anticipation in us. Thank you for purifying us by the blood of Your son so that we might savor the prospect of seeing You face to face (Matthew 5:8). AMEN.

How to face temptation – Sage Counsel from Thomas Brooks

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan pastor, counsels believers to confront all temptations (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the boastful pride of life) with the words of the Psalmist: “The LORD is my portion” (16:5; 73:26; 119:57; 142:5). He exhorts:

Luther counsels every Christian to answer all temptations with the short saying, ‘I am a Christian’ and I would counsel every Christian to answer all temptations with this short saying, ‘The Lord is my portion.’

  • O Christian, when Satan or the world shall tempt thee with honors, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion,’
  • when they shall tempt thee with riches, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • when they shall tempt thee with preferment, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall tempt thee with the favors of great ones, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • yea and when this persecuting world shall threaten thee with the loss of thy estate, answer ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of thy liberty, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of friends, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
  • and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of life, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;.
  • O sirs! If Satan should come to you with an apple, as once he did to Eve, tell him the “the Lord is your portion;”
  • or with a grape, as once he did to Noah, tell him that “the Lord is your portion;
  • or with a change of raiment, as once he did to Gehazi, tell him that ‘the Lord is your portion;
  • or with a wedge of gold, as once he did to Achan, tell him that “the Lord is your portion;”
  • or with a bag of silver, as once he did with Judas, tell him that “the Lord is your portion.”[1]

[1] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, vol 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh, Scotland: James Nichol, 1666), 114.

A Pastoral Charge to Young Men Everywhere

Not long ago, a friend of mine had a son who was turning 14 years of age. He asked me to give him a brief charge. Below is the letter I wrote to this young man.

You may not remember me, but I know your dad and he asked me to share with you what the Lord might want you to think about as you reach this important milestone in your life of turning 14 years of age.

You are in the midst of a most important transition from boyhood to manhood. It’s hard to know exactly when you stop being a boy and become a man. But, I do think the Bible reveals that a man is one who… rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects a greater reward. (From Raising a Modern Day Knight)

First of all, reject passivity. As you grow up, you will find that the proverbial wheels fall off the wagon in all of our relationships when men are passive. If you’ve ever read about Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, you know that what got them in trouble in the beginning was the passivity of Adam. Adam should have taken the initiative to protect Eve from the seduction of the devil. He carelessly exposed and left her alone to face the tempter. Let me encourage you to reject passivity at every turn. Pray that the Lord would make you into a loving and servant leader like your Lord and Savior, Jesus. The Bible tells us that he is the second Adam who obeyed His Father perfectly and always resisted the advances of our adversary. In fact, he laid down His life to absorb the curse of sin and death brought about by Adam’s fall.

Secondly, accept responsibility. Most folks have a big problem with this. We naturally gravitate towards blame shifting and shaming others when something goes wrong and unravels in our lives. Again, you see this in Genesis 3 when the man blames the woman and then the woman blames the serpent. No one wants to take responsibility for what went dreadfully wrong in the Garden of Eden. One sure sign that the gospel cure has begun in our hearts is that we are able to admit when we are wrong and apologize and ask forgiveness. Growing as a Christian doesn’t mean that we sin less. Yes, we might not succumb to certain overt sins, but we face more and more the deceitfulness of our own idolatrous hearts and we are continually aware of our need of God’s grace.

Thirdly, lead courageously as Christ’s servant. At times the Arctic chill of loneliness will blow into a leader’s life when you have to take a stand for Christ. I would encourage you to secure a copy of my favorite biography. It is entitled Borden of Yale. It chronicles the life of a young man named Bill Borden. He went to Yale University as an undergraduate and afterward became a missionary candidate to China. Heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was a millionaire by the time he graduated high school. As a gift on the event of his graduation, Borden was sent on a trip around the world. Traveling throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, he experienced a growing concern for the hurting and lost of the world. He wrote home to say, ‘I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.’ After making this decision, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: ‘No Reserves.’ 

From there Borden went on to Yale University with purpose and determination. During his first semester he began a campus-wide student movement to meet regularly, read the Bible and pray. By the end of his first year, 150 fellow freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible studies. By the time he was a senior, 1,000 out of Yale’s 1,300 students were joining together in these groups. Beyond the campus, Borden founded the Yale Hope Mission to reach out to the under-resourced and under-privileged on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. All of this was set in the context of his call to foreign missions, which soon focused on Muslims in China. After graduation, Borden was offered numerous high-paying jobs, but all were declined in order to pursue the mission field. At this point, he wrote down two more words in the back of his Bible: ‘No Retreats.’  He committed to hold nothing back in serving Christ.

Borden next went to graduate school at Princeton Seminary, where he was ordained to the ministry. After he finished his studies, he set sail for China through the China Inland Mission, stopping first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted meningitis. In less than a month, William Borden was dead. He was twenty-six years old. But before his death, knowing that the steps of his life would take him no further, he had written two more words in his Bible; beneath ‘No Reserves’ and ‘No Retreats’ he had written ‘No Regrets.’ I hope that you’ll adopt his motto as your own: No reserves, no retreats, and no regrets.

Here’s a brief poem that was given to Bill Borden by his mother when he was young boy. Make this poem your prayer during the days of your youth. Don’t wait to follow hard after Jesus.

 

Just as I am, Thine own to be.

Friend of the young, who lovest me,

To consecrate myself to Thee –

O Jesus Christ, I come.

In the glad morning of my day,

My life to give, my vows to pay,

With no reserve and no delay –

With all my heart, I come.

I would live ever in the light,

I would work ever for the right,

I would serve Thee with all my might –

Therefore to Thee I come.

Just as I am, young, strong, and free,

To be the best that I can be,

For truth and righteousness and Thee –

Lord of my Life, I come.

Fourthly, expect a greater reward. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 reminds us of the ultimate reward: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

How wonderful to one day hear from your Savior’s lips “well done my good and faithful servant. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.” I hope that this ultimate reward will be more real and beautiful and wonderful to you than anything else in your life. It won’t be always. Thus, keep running to the cross and experience anew the Lord’s pardoning grace found there.

Let me close with the simple challenge from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” You are transitioning to manhood. Act like one. The best way I know to learn more about what that looks like is to commit yourself to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Your friend,

Dick Cain

 

LORD vs. Lord

I recent received an email asking the following:

I have a translation/word use question I was hoping you could explain to me.

In Leviticus 19:18, my ESV says “You shall not take vengence or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.”

In James (in several places, but specifically 2:1) James uses the word “Lord” (“our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the Lord of glory”).

I was wondering, because I’ve noticed this before and not ever figured it out – why does it sometimes say LORD (all caps) and sometimes Lord (with only the L capitalized)?  Is this a different word origin?  Both are referring to the triune God, so I’m curious as to the difference.

Here is my attempt at a concise answer:

When the English translators use LORD in all caps, they are translating the personal name for God: Yahweh. See Exodus 3 where the LORD reveals himself to Moses in the burning bush. Basically, it reminds us that the LORD is a God who keeps His covenant… His promises. He is a God who is loyal, persistent, and unfailing in His love for His people. He takes us to be His people and He promises to be our God.

This is distinctive from the name for God in Genesis 1:1 where Moses writes: “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” This is the powerful name of God…the one who is the creator and sustainer of all things.

‘Lord’ in smaller letters reflects the name “adonai” which has the notion of master.

Now when the religious Jews still read their Old Testaments, they have such respect and honor for the name Yahweh that they never take that name for God on their lips. They also say out loud “adonai” in respect and honor for the name of Yahweh. Would that we had the same reverence for the LORD.

There is plenty more you could say about this, but that’s enough for now. Hope it helps and thanks for asking!