Oh Give Thanks!

Psalm 118 (ESV)

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. 10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 12 They surrounded me like bees; they went out like fire among thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, 16 the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!” 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. 29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

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Thanksgiving

If you haven’t ready Lamentations 3 recently, today would be a good day to do so (here).

(ESV) Lamentations 3:1 I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
2 he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
3 surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.

4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
5 he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
6 he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

[More of the same… but do read the whole chapter!] Continue reading

Repentance

There’s one thought I came across in Owen’s Mortification which has kept coming up to me lately, but which I resist — though I understand and acknowledge its truth: that God even grants us repentance — that without His work in our hearts, we would not repent. It’s very obvious in justification – from Romans 8:30 “…whom He called, these He also justified…”; Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life'”; Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”; Titus 2:25-26 “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”; Is 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” and many other texts – salvation is all God’s work. What can a heart of stone do to reach out to to a holy God?

But in terms of sanctification, I have a harder time with the concept. Owen cites: Acts 5:31 “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” and appears to apply this verse to believers. Well, I can’t argue with that in concept, though perhaps that is stretching the original intention of the verse. But, really, when I look at all of the verses above, how can they not also apply to believers? After all, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin, John 16:8 – and He certainly does that for believers as well. Where would we be without the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Where would we be without His work of sanctification in our lives? Can I do anything in and of myself to kill the least of my sins? No.

So why do I struggle with this? My problem lies in the fact that I don’t want to make use of the fact that God grants me repentance as an excuse to not repent of some future sin. Or as an excuse for not repenting in the past. So with this concept in hand – that it is God who must grant me repentance, it seems like I’m suddenly freed from the responsibility of repenting! But that cannot be; in some mysterious way, like the “moment” of salvation itself, I must agree with God that I’m a wretched sinner saved by grace, and that some sin has come between me and a holy and just God – a sin which nailed a flayed Christ on the cross – and that thought alone should cause me great sorrow and lead me into the repentance God has granted me.

And by His stripes, I am healed.

My memory

Sometimes my memory works like the proverbial steel trap. When it comes to utterly useless trivia, I’m your guy. I can remember the author who introduced me to certain words – and sometimes even the very book! (Examples: P.G. Wodehouse, who had an immense vocabulary, introduced me to fug, opprobrious, bootless, inimitable (in a title), and many others. Farley Mowat introduced me to tyro, among others.) What does it matter, really, where I learned those words? Or what a nictitating membrane is? Or that an eft is an juvenile newt?

On the other hand, I have a terrible time remembering names. Sometimes I even forget the names of people I’ve known for a long time, but haven’t seen in a while. (And no, this isn’t an artifact of my being in my 40’s — I have had this problem since I was in college, at least.) New names? I’m terrible with new names.

I also have a hard time remembering to adjust the seat and mirrors for my wife after I drive her car, while she always remembers to adjust the seat after she drives my truck. There are lots of other things I don’t remember for her, which I should.

And finally, I forget the lessons I’ve learned in life. Lessons which were painful and hard to learn. Lessons which taught me humility. Lessons which taught me about the incredible mercy and grace of God.  Yet God still remembers to be merciful and gracious to me.  (No small part of that grace involves my very longsuffering wife!)

Why is that? Why do I remember unimportant trivia, and forget important things?

Does anyone else have this problem?

That question again…

The older I get, the smaller the world becomes. Nothing new, I know. When I was a child, I used to be amazed at the number of people who knew my parents. No matter where we were in Southern California, it seemed, we could run into people who knew them. Now, of course, I know people all over the world because of work, friends moving away, and the ordinary course of life. Thus I find myself connected to recent horrifying events: an unstable student killing so many professors and fellow students at Virginia Tech earlier this year; the collapse of the 35W bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

God, in His mercy, did not choose to take home any of my friends in the Twin Cities area who live and work by, drive over, and cycle under the 35W bridge, or my friend from high school who now teaches at VT.

Yet… He did choose to take home the teenage son of a missionary sent out from our church. Joshua died while he and his mom, Shelly, a paramedic by training, were teaching a search and rescue class. Shelly attempted to revive Joshua for over 3 hours. My friend Danny wrote a moving post about Joshua here.

Why did God choose to take Joshua home? To allow so many to perish as a result of the collapse of the 35W bridge, or at the hands of a deranged gunman at VT? Do we have the right to demand an explanation from God for these tragedies? How could He possibly allow these things to happen?

I believe that the short answer is this: He allowed these things to happen for His glory. This is a hard truth, even for those not directly affected by these horrible events. It is a troubling, even scary thought. On the other hand, it is a thought that is addressed by the Bible.

Job is the guy one thinks of when one thinks of calamities recorded in the Bible. Here was a guy who did everything right – and he got slammed! But in the end, what was his conclusion? That he needed to repent! How crazy is that? After a lot of nonsense from his “friends” in previous chapters, and even some pretty-good sounding words from Job, God spoke and gave Job some perspective. And Job’s response was to acknowledge that God is sovereign, and that He can turn even evil events around for His good purpose… For some such events, we may never know His full plan this side of heaven. Like I said – it’s a hard truth.

Postscript: Here’s how one pastor reassured his daughter when putting her to bed Wednesday night. (Note the part about the fact that the word “bridge” does not appear in the Bible. Overlay that with the fact that pontiff means “bridge builder”…)