Margin notes: A simple prayer about my cravings.

Psalm 78:18 (ESV) — 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. In this Psalm of Asaph, he recounts the stubbornness of Israel in the way it has dealt with God, and the mercy and grace God has displayed in the face of Israel’s stubbornness. Vs. 18 seems to be the lynchpin on which their rebellion hung.  And I could not help but feel the pinch of it myself as I reflected upon how often I’ve resented God loving me better than my cravings, by abundantly meeting my needs – far and above anything I could have imagined. He is so very, very good to us. Heavenly Father, this is so much how I am. No matter how often or how wondrously you prove yourself to me, at the next crisis, it is as though you have done nothing in the past. It is as though you are constantly having to prove yourself to me. Please forgive my hardness and unfaithfulness. Make my mind recall your past graces, and let me stand secure in your love that I do not repeatedly put you to the test. Let my heart be free of its sinful doubting – and truly trust you. Make my only “demand” – that I might know you more. Keep me from demanding that you cater to my cravings above what your infinitely perfect love and wisdom deem best for me. Teach me to trust you above my own wicked heart. Teach me to “crave” better than I know or feel. Love me better than what I think love ought to be. Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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Margin notes: Teach your children well – Better than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Psalm 78:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. If you didn’t get my byline – than LISTEN HERE first, and then come back to read this. What a good thing it is for each generation to make known what they’ve come to know and have learned about the goodness, power and wonder of God. For parents to tell their children of their own conversion to Christ. To tell them how God rescued them in trouble, provided for them, walked with them, comforted them, sustained them and blessed them. Parents – do not be silent. Give your children the heritage of your life in Christ. Recount it. Glory in it, joy in it, and tell them of it. The following verses tell us why we should do vss. 1-4 – So they… Read More

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Margin notes: God’s Steady “pillars”

Psalm 75:3 (ESV) — 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah 3 Things in the 3rd verse from Asaph are so vital for Christians today to bear in mind. First, there are times when the earth totters, stumbling and quaking and crumbling. The Psalm does not say “IF” these things happen – but “when.” They will. Great upheavals in the creation physically, politically in governments, economically and even religiously and personally. The earth and all earthly system stand presently under the judgment of God. And it is crumbling. Second, The Lord knows there will be these seasons. He is not surprised by them, and so neither should we be. Comfort, ease and outward security are no inalienable rights. We live in a world that is passing away. And this entire world system suffers from its death spasms. This will not be reversed, even tho God in His grace does give seasons of respite as well. But we must make no mistake that this present world which is passing away – cannot be rescued. (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17) Third. Those in Christ have this knowledge as well – that in spite of it all, even in its worst moments, the Lord still keeps those pillars of grace and mercy steady. We have a sureness and security those outside of Christ cannot conceive of. Like the Disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm threatened to sink and drown them – they could not perish because HE could not perish. As long as we are with Him, in Him and He in us, though every piece of the fabric of human existence be torn, we have secure and steady pillars which cannot be shaken even in the least.… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 5

This is last in this series of posts. And I trust there has been a stirring in your heart as there has in mine – to recover true Evangelicalism for our day. It is when basics like those we’ve been examining here either get assumed, and thus for all practical purposes ignored, or shoved out of the way by other important, but not equally as essential things – that the foundations erode quickly. We go off course. It is one of the features of the Old Testament prophets that they were like “master-builders” (to use Paul’s term) who were constantly calling God’s people back to the original plan. Back from distraction and compromise. Back to the foundations. Back to lives and practices commensurate with the foundations laid. Hence we need those prophetic voices in every generation. It would be in that context that I would exclaim with Paul –  “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged 1 Corinthians 14:31 (ESV). Oh for such a spirit of prophecy to fall on our generation. Calling us back consistently to be about the eternal purposes and plan of God in Christ – and not sidetracked by so many other things.  If I might summarize our writer’s points so far – Dr. Ryle has been advocating for understanding true Evangelicalism as having 5 “leading” features. As he’ll note today, these aren’t the only features, but they are the 5 leading ones in his opinion. An opinion I share. The Supremacy of the ScripturesThe Depravity of the human heartThe Centrality of ChristThe Necessity of Regeneration And today: The active Presence of the Holy Spirit (e) The fifth and last leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the importance which it attaches to the outward and visible… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 4

Following a short essay by Bishop J. C. Ryle, a leading evangelical Anglican of the 19th century, we have seen that Evangelicalism isn’t what most would think of today when they hear that word in the public sector. In a sense, we’ve let others define that term for us rather than insisting on making it clear what WE mean by it. And to be fair, many self-professed Evangelicals have poured into the current public perception by doing what they do in the political and social realms in the name of Evangelicalism. When in fact those endeavors may have more to do with their brand, than the core features we’ve been discussing. The great churchman of the 16th century Richard Hooker noted that when people have a cause and a particular slant in controversial issues or those they are greatly exercised over, they tend to make that issue an all-or-nothing proposition before long. And in doing that, they then pour everything into it in such a way that their very Christianity rests in the issue itself. And as a result, those who do not agree with them on this issue are suspect even in their Christianity. So for some, a representative republic as a form of government or free-market capitalism become synonymous with Biblical Christianity – and anyone holding to anything else in any way can’t even be a Christian! Thus in the process, Evangelicals end up deconstructing our own Evangelicalism. All that to say, that we need to get back to real basics here. So far we’ve seen the first 3 leading features of Evangelical Religion – and today our writer sets forth the 4th one. a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 2

Evangelical. We hear it in the press all the time. Almost exclusively in political terms. The “Evangelical right” as a voting block. That is the way most people hear, understand and interact with the word. But it wasn’t always so. Going back to the days before the Reformation, “evangelicals” were just what the name means – they were “gospelers” – heralds of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals were simply those who had heard, believed, and now spread the “good news” – the Gospel – the “evangel” that Jesus had died to make an atonement for human sin, that all who put their trust in His substitutionary death, could be, WOULD be, reconciled to God. We’ve come a long way. And sadly we’ve let those outside of Evangelicalism reshape how that label is understood and used. And perhaps, even those who consider themselves evangelicals might be surprised to know what that has meant historically. And to that end, we are reviewing Bishop J. C. Ryle’s five leading features of Evangelical Religion. Last time we looked at number  – (a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy. Today, I submit to you number 2. Here’s Ryle: (b) The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption.Its theory is that in consequence of Adam’s fall, all men are as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and are of their own natures inclined to evil. They are not only in a miserable, pitiable, and bankrupt condition, but in a state of guilt, imminent danger, and condemnation before God. They are not only… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 1

Labels are funny things. Some we take to ourselves, and others are assigned to us. Of those assigned to us by others, some are complimentary, some merely descriptive, and some even derisive. The label “Christian” for instance was not one Believers gave to themselves, but was mostly likely hung on them by those who opposed them in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Being watched from the outside, some said “these are – you know, those Christ-ians, those people who claim Jesus was the Christ and rose from the dead.” It meant you were out of step with the mainstream. Perhaps even a kook. But Believers adopted the term even though it wasn’t meant as a compliment. Even as it is no longer a compliment in our culture. It was a very similar situation with the label “Methodists.” Those who subscribed to the theology and approach of John and Charles Wesley were scorned as those “Methodists” – who thought a life given over to searching and knowing the Scriptures, and methodically approaching life in Christ was kooky. But the Methodists took the scornful term and owned it. Now the label Evangelical wasn’t a term of derision originally – but it has become so to many in our day. Over-association with politics as well as some other factors has brought that about. Some, like myself, have wondered if the term is useful anymore because it has been so removed from its roots. Then reading recently in the works of J. C. Ryle, the 19th century, 1st Anglican Bishop to Liverpoool, my fervor for being clearly “Evangelical” was renewed. In his little book “Knots Untied” Ryle outlined what he called “the five leading features” of Evangelical religion. So for the next few days I’m going to give you those features – one a day. With… Read More

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Margin notes: Lamentations

Lamentations 5:21 (ESV) — Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— Few, if any, would say Lamentations if their favorite book in the Bible. But its 5 short chapters need to be read often. In the end, it is as hopeful as it is harrowing. But we need to be reminded over and over that God does not take sin lightly – even in His chosen ones. Grace is not license TO sin, but freedom FROM sin. Oh that our hearts would drink this in. This short book with is unique acrostic arrangement was composed so as to aid the readers in memorizing it. Not that they might remain forever shameful, but that they might be forever warned. To be reminded over and over of the effects of sin. To see it in all of its destructive wretchedness. Temptation makes sin look so attractive, but it ALWAYS ends in hideous pain and torment. No one imagines when they try to steal some fleeting but forbidden dainty that it is so full of poison as to bring destruction even into the lives of our children and grandchildren. But it is so. God does not warn us against it to rob of some joy, but to keep us from the result, and to direct us to true, lasting, divine joy. To find our joy in Christ Jesus and His redeeming grace. Prov. 10:22 “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” The PRETENDED blessings of the world, make us bankrupt, and are shot through and through with nothing but sorrow. Advertisements Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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Margin notes: What’s love got to do with it?

1 Corinthians 16:22 (ESV) — If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! Sometimes, you can read something in God’s Word which you’ve read a multitude of times, that hits you with such fresh force it takes you up short. Such was true for me as I hit upon this all-too-familiar passage today. Let the gravity of these words sink in – “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” This really is a most sobering and searching verse. We are prone to talk about individual faith by that term alone – faith, or belief. So many a person claims to believe in God, believe in Christ, believe in the Bible. Believe in the Gospel etc.. But bare belief is only one side of the coin. If there is no “love for the Lord” – no desire to see Him, be with Him, delight in Him and especially to find Heaven that place where we will see and experience His unveiled glory – if that is not a motivating factor in our hearts – whatever else we may profess to “believe”, we are still accursed. Now this is a deeply necessary consideration. Paul says it in the most stunning of terms. He does not say if one has no love for the Lord, they need help – but that they are actually accursed. We must search ourselves in this regard. Many if not most desire “Heaven” in the sense of an existence without the scars and plagues of sin. Or simply as the pleasant alternative to Hell. But do we desire Heaven because we love Him and want to be with Him? Yes, we groan with all of Creation for the day when the Fall’s effects will be totally… Read More

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Margin notes: What’s with all the names?

Nehemiah 10:1–27 (ESV) — 1 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch…26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah. Every Friday morning, a number of men from our Church under the leadership of Mike Holbein gather for an hour to do just 1 thing: read the Bible out loud to one another. We’re reading it all the way through in chronological order. It is a precious time. This morning found us reading the 10th chapter of the book of Ezra, and the first 10 chapters of Nehemiah. And let me tell you, those seemingly endless lists of hard to pronounce names can be pretty challenging. and it is easy to ask ourselves – what is the deal here? What is with all of the nearly unpronounceable names of people thousands of years removed from us? Why are these lists even in the Word of God? And those aren’t wrong questions to ask. But let me make a couple of suggestions for when you get to those passages and are tempted to just skip over them. There are more than 80 names noted in Neh. 10 alone. And God knows each one of them. None who give themselves to serve Him and His Kingdom are ever forgotten. They are not faceless and nameless, our God knows each and every one of His own. He knows you. By name. And He does not forget you. These 80+ in this chapter may mean little or nothing to us this far removed from them – they have been inscribed in the everlasting Word of God. Just as every Believer is inscribed in the wounds of the Savior.… Read More

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Margin notes: Getting my vision back

Psalm 73 (ESV) — A Psalm of Asaph. 1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. 10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.… Read More

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Margin notes: Misreading Providence

Jeremiah 44:15–19 (ESV) — 15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. 17 But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. 18 But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” 19 And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands’ approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?” Jeremiah prophesied and wrote in troubled times. Judah and Jerusalem had fallen to the military power of the Babylonians. Countless numbers were taken into exile in Babylon, and countless others killed in the battles, staved and left in utter ruin. All because the Jewish nation had persisted in turning to worship idols and false gods, while still claiming to be God’s people. A condition God’s prophets had warned against for many, many years. The warning being that if they did not repent, they would be ruthlessly conquered. And so it happened. For those left in… Read More

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Margin notes: A Conflict of Laws

Romans 8:1–2 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The book of Esther presents a wonderful way of illustrating this short but all-important passage. You will remember that a high ranking official in the Persian Empire by the name of Haman, was an enemy of the Jews. Haman nudged the King into making a decree that on a certain day of the month later in the year, everyone was free to kill and plunder their Jewish neighbors throughout the kingdom. He had led the King to believe the Jews were enemies of his rule and bad for the state. This was really driven by his own animus against a godly Jew named Mordecai. Mordecai had raised his orphaned niece Hadassah (Esther) and she had recently become Queen. But this edict inspired by Haman would mean the slaughter of her people. Esther exposed Haman’s plan to the King. Haman was executed and the Queen then asked that the edict be repealed. But there was a problem. The law of the Medes or the Persians said that no edict of the King could be changed once it was signed and sealed. It was irreversible. It appeared there was no answer. But God gave an answer to Mordecai and Esther. The King let them write another edict, that he also signed. This one said that on the day the Jews were scheduled to be slaughtered, they were allowed to take up arms against their persecutors and plunder their goods! And so the tables were completely turned and the Jews were saved while 75,000 of their enemies were killed. What does this… Read More

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Margin notes: Remembering our warfare

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Eph 6:10–13. I don’t know about you, but it is easy for me to forget that the normal Christian life is one of perpetual warfare. I don’t like it. I want to set it aside. I want to live in peace and joy and not need to be constantly vigilant about my soul. That day IS coming – but it isn’t here yet. This is the day of battle. This is the age of conquest. And while we battle on 3 fronts, the Word, the Flesh and the Devil – I find the battle against my own flesh to be the most difficult. I do so because the other 2 are outside of me, but the battle against the flesh is internal, it is very really against myself. Now in a prolonged battle, weariness is a constant concern. And if we are battling in our own strength, weariness is impossible to avoid. It is why our text calls us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might. To stand constantly depending upon the work Christ has already finished on our behalf. To find the one place where we can stand firm – in a Gospel of the finished work… Read More

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