Never-Failing Treasure

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Apart from him you should never desire even to breathe. For he is my hope, he is my boast, he is my never-failing wealth.

— Pseudo-Ignatius, Ephesians, 11:2.

What would I gain to have the whole world
To be king of silver and of gold
But at the cost of losing You
Getting wealth in exchange for my soul?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

Why would I long to live in a tent
When room in Your house is kept for me?
Why would I keep failing, frailing dust
When a body like Yours I’ll receive?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

Why would I drink from empty bottles
That can never quench my thirsty heart?
Why waste my time on deadly shadows
That will only drive us further apart?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

5-25-2017

Help My Unbelief

I hear all the great promises,
I know that they are true
I know all things are possible
For those who trust in You

Lord, I believe! 
O help my unbelief!
Lord, I need You
To give me some relief!
I feel the hardness of my heart
And know it should not be,
I fall down at Your mercy, Lord,
O help my unbelief!

Now my eyes have grown accustomed
To walking in the dark
I need a lamp to light the path
And guide my wand’ring heart

Lord, I believe! 
O help my unbelief!
Lord, I need You
To give me some relief!
I feel the hardness of my heart
And know it should not be,
I fall down at Your mercy, Lord,
O help my unbelief!

One day I’ll be completely changed
And freed from all my sin
I’ll no longer war against
This unbelief within

Lord, I believe! 
O help my unbelief!
Lord, I need You
To give me some relief!
I feel the hardness of my heart
And know it should not be,
I fall down at Your mercy, Lord,
O help my unbelief!

1-14-2016

Hope for the Helpless Bible Reader

In reading through Psalm 119, it struck me how many of the verses of this song are cries of helplessness and longing, not the triumphant shouts of arrival. For example, from the very beginning, the Psalmist admits,

If only my ways were committed to keeping Your statutes! (119:5)

Then again,

Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction (119:18).

Particularly in the He section (verses 33-40), there are repeated pleas for help:

Help me understand Your instruction,
and I will obey it
and follow it with all my heart.
Help me stay on the path of Your commands,
for I take pleasure in it.
Turn my heart to Your decrees
and not to material gain.
Turn my eyes
from looking at what is worthless;
give me life in Your ways (119:34-37, emphasis added).

In so many words, the Psalmist says, “I don’t automatically get everything when I read the Bible; God, help me!” Here’s a guy who wrote 176 alphabetized verses about the Bible, and that guy admits that Bible study is hard. He admits to being helpless, distracted, dense, sinful, greedy, and just feeling dead at times. Three thousand years later, things aren’t that much different.

And yet, this utter helplessness does not lead to despair. Astoundingly, it leads to hope! Even though the Psalmist knows how much of a knuckleheaded sinner he can be (and we know the same of ourselves), there is still hope for joyful time in God’s word because God loves to help us.

Here, enshrined within the Inspired Text itself, is an admission that loving God’s word doesn’t come naturally. In fact, it can only come supernaturally–which is why we pray for it!

Always Appropriate

Whether in temptation or calm, says Abba Isaac, whether in fear or reassurance, whether in pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, there are no circumstances in life when it is not supremely proper to pray: “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.” This prayer, he goes on, should never be absent from our lips. …

After stating that this formula–“O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me”–had been handed down through the Egyptian monastic tradition from its most ancient fathers, with a view to attaining purity of heart and constant prayer, Abba Isaac continues: “Not without reason has this verse [Psalm 70:1] been selected from out of the whole body of Scripture. For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack. It contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis, the humility of a devout confession, the watchfulness of concern and of constant fear, a consciousness of one’s own frailty, the assurance of being heard, and confidence in a protection that is always present and at hand, for whoever calls unceasingly on his protector is sure that He is always present. It contains a burning love and charity, an awareness of traps, and a fear of enemies.”

— Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, 137-138.

What Are You Wearing?

Zechariah 3 records a vision given to the prophet, and it is one of the most poignant, hopeful images of grace in the Scriptures. Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Yahweh (likely Jesus Himself here) and Satan is standing at Joshua’s right side.

Satan is in the position of accuser here, and he has plenty of material to work with. Instead of the robes designed “for beauty and for glory,” Joshua’s robes are filthy–the word signifies that they are soiled with excrement. Yahweh’s commands for purity, cleanliness, and holiness, particularly for the man serving as high priest, are clear and unequivocal. Joshua has no place standing before God like this. It is his shame, and he deserves to be consumed in wrath for it. No doubt, this is the substance of Satan’s accusations against him.

And yet, Jesus does something amazing: He orders Joshua’s filthy clothes to be removed from him and replaced with “splendid robes.” To drive the point home, He says to Joshua, “See, I have removed your guilt from you.” Satan the Accuser has lost all his ammunition; what more can he say when the trial is over? The verdict has been given, and there is no double jeopardy in the courts of Yahweh. This point is also seen in that Satan is neither seen nor heard from for the rest of the vision. Silence is golden–the marvelous silence of no condemnation.

With that context, then, reading Psalm 109 is horrifying. It is the stuff of nightmares–it is hell itself.

Set a wicked person over him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
and let his prayer be counted as sin.
Let his days be few;
let another take over his position.
Let his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
Let his children wander as beggars;
searching for food far from their demolished homes.
Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for.
Let no one show him kindness,
and let no one be gracious to his fatherless children.
Let the line of his descendants be cut off;
let their name be blotted out in the next generation.
Let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD,
and do not let his mother’s sin be blotted out.
Let their sins always remain before the LORD,
and let Him cut off all memory of them from the earth (Psalm 109:6-16 HCSB).

The parallels with Zechariah 2-3 are striking.

Psalm 109 Zechariah 2-3
“let an accuser stand at his right hand” (109:6) “with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1)
“let no one show him kindness” (109:12) “The LORD replied with kind and comforting words” (2:13)
“let no one be gracious
to his fatherless children” (109:12)
“I have graciously returned to Jerusalem” (2:16)
“Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it” (2:4)
“let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD” (109:14) “‘See, I have removed your guilt from you'” (3:4)
“let their sins always remain before the LORD” (109:15) “See,…I will clothe you with splendid robes” (3:4)
“I will grant you access among these who are standing here” (3:7)
 “Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for” (109:11)
 “On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree” (3:10)

We also can’t ignore that Psalm 109:8 was the justification for replacing Judas as apostle. Thus, we are presented with two possible outcomes for our lives: Judas or Joshua.

Being born again means that Jesus has declared us to be unworthy of our filthy robes and worthy of His splendid robes. He has declared this to be true, and then He and the Father give the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to actually make us unworthy and worthy. Jesus does this because even though He was only worthy of splendid robes of holiness and righteousness, He takes our hateful, filthy robes of sin off of us and puts them on Himself. He wraps us in the splendid robes we had no business looking at, much less wearing.

“See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”

“Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying:

Hallelujah–because our Lord God, the Almighty has begun to reign!
Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself.
She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.

For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. … The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen” (Revelation 19:6-8, 14 HCSB)

So, what are you wearing?

Book Review: John Wesley on the Christian Life

I recently finished Fred Sanders’ (@fredfredsanders) John Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love. I was doubly drawn to the book: having read Sanders’ The Deep Things of God, I had been acquainted with his rich devotion to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and his helpful, clear writing. The subject of the book also appealed to me; I knew very little about Wesley, other than scattered “facts” that were admittedly unverified and likely caricature. Since Sanders comes from a thoughtful Wesleyan perspective, I hoped I was in for a treat.

I was not disappointed.

Continue reading “Book Review: John Wesley on the Christian Life”

Music Monday: Release Me From This Snare by Beautiful Eulogy

It’s not often that Music Monday will come with free albums, but the extremely generous gents from Beautiful Eulogy have made the entire album Instruments of Mercy for download at Noisetrade. (Their debut album, Satellite Kite, is also available at Noisetrade.)

Both the song and the video (above) masterfully present the plea of the repentant believer. Verse 1 begins with Psalm 32:5 ESV, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity.” The verse then discusses the reality that God already sees and knows all things; hiding from Him is as foolish as it is impossible.

The twin extremes of repentance are flippancy and wallowing. Beautiful Eulogy expertly navigate between these dangers by taking sin seriously, but by finding hope in Jesus’ cleansing and forgiveness.

Give me the faith to believe what You say
And to trust in Your word when I’m tempted to stray
And to patiently wait for the day You return
I hate my sin; it burns

And,

Oh God, my sin is great–there’s no escaping it
I hate my sin but I still partake in it

I begin to better understand confession
When I understand the weight of my sin and its effect
How it’s a direct revelation of my selfishness
And recognize God’s correct assessment
I don’t have to hide behind my own pride
Tear myself up from the guilt inside
Because I’ve been given everything I’ve ever needed
To stand clean and forgiven when I received Jesus

Please, please take advantage of an album that is food and medicine for your soul. These men passionately love Jesus and are world-class wordsmiths.

What Polar Opposites Have in Common

The poor and the oppressor have this in common:
Yahweh gives light to the eyes of both.

Proverbs 29:13 HCSB

Once again, Solomon masterfully uses comparison and contrast to condense so much wisdom into a single two-line proverb. Reading Proverbs helps renew the sense of wonder at God’s immense wisdom, but also at His immense artistry. What incredible skill it is to say so much in such a pithy little statement! Continue reading “What Polar Opposites Have in Common”

Music Monday: All My Fountains by Chris Tomlin (with help from John Newton)

Chris Tomlin’s “All My Fountains” is based on Psalm 87:7:

Singers and dancers alike will say,
“All my springs [or fountains, per the NIV84] are in you.”

The psalm is an excited celebration at the thought of being a part of God’s people. John Newton wrote a great song titled after verse 3, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” It helps us get at what the psalm as a whole is conveying:

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
He whose word cannot be broken
Formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love;
Well supplies thy sons and daughters
And all fears of want removes.
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to quench?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Blessed inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood;
Jesus, whom their souls rely on
Makes them kings and priests to God.
Tis His love His people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests His solemn praises
Each for a thank offering bring.

Savior, if of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasures,
None but Zion’s children know.

For the sons of Korah (and John Newton and Chris Tomlin), the central reality of each of their respective songs is the blessing of God Himself calling you His own. In Psalm 87:6, Yahweh Himself registers the peoples, noting “This one was born there [in Zion].” Newton says it this way, “Savior, if of Zion’s city / I, through grace, a member am.” For Tomlin, it’s finding home and rest after the “dry and desert land.”

The songs also get at the soul-satisfaction found only in Jesus. To combine Tomlin and Newton: The worldling’s pleasure is a dry and desert land. I’m searching for a flood for my soul, a well that will never run dry–a stream of solid joys and lasting treasures.

The chorus of “All My Fountains” refers to Jesus’ own teaching about the soul-satisfaction only He can give. In John 4, Jesus offers the woman at the well living water, which can satisfy the thirst of her heart eternally; Jacob’s well can only satisfy physical thirst temporarily. “Everyone who drinks from this water [in Jacob’s well] will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again–ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life” (John 4:13-14 HCSB).

So, what Tomlin is leading us to sing in the chorus and bridge is this: Jesus, You alone give living water. You alone quench the thirst of my heart forever. You alone have a wealth of solid joys and lasting treasures. That’s why I come to You. Rain down on us, Lord, the cleansing water of Your hope, Your word, Your promises, Your truth. Open the Heavens; come, Living Water: You are the only place I can come to for life. Your fountains are my life, my cleansing, my refreshing.

It’s a great song (and terribly fun to play, too). May it encourage your hearts and spur you on to trust Jesus.