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resolved and reforming

a great sinner in need of a great saviour

Where Does Meaning Come From?

It is incidentally worth observing that something quite mysterious, almost magical, occurs during this stage (of elementary reading). At one moment in the course of his development the child, when faced with a series of symbols on a page, finds them quite meaningless. Not much later-perhaps only two or three weeks later- he has discovered meaning in them; he knows that they say “The cat sat on the hat.” How this happens no one really knows, despite the efforts of philosophers and psychologists over two and a half millennia to study the phenomenon. …Indeed, this discovery of meaning in symbols may be the most astounding intellectual feat that any human being ever performs-and most humans preform it before they are seven years old!

  • Mortimer Jerome J Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), 25.

The Fear of Fear

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:14–19, ESV)

Last weekend, Living Praise continued our study of 1 Peter. We read the command, to “conduct ourselves with fear“. It is not uncommon to hear Christians qualifying the word “fear” with reverent, awe etc. We seem to be afraid to define fear for what it is.

Well, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. This command by Peter is framed in the context of a father and son relationship. We are to be holy because our heavenly Father is holy. So holiness is a mark of obedient children. Our failure to behave as children of God does not make our Father abandon us. The command to be holy is given to a people who have already been redeemed by God.

Tim Keller in his book Prayer illustrates the concept of the “fear of God” by retelling a scene from The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame).

“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” where the characters Mole and Rat meet the animals’ deity, the god Pan and hear him playing his pipes. They are stunned:

“Rat,” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?”

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid!! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet-and yet-O, Mole I am afraid!”

That captures the concept of the “fear of God” as well as anything I know. We could say that fear of punishment is a self-absorbed kind of fear. It happens to people wrapped up in themselves. Those who believe the gospel-who believe that they are the recipients of underserved but unshakable grace-grow in a paradoxically loving yet joyful fear. Because of unutterable love and joy in God, we tremble with the privilege of being in his presence and with an intense longing to honour him when we are there. We are deeply afraid of grieving him. ..Of course, we can’t really harm God, but a Christian should be intensely concerned not to grieve or dishonour the one who is so glorious and who did so much for us.

Keller, Prayer, p.98-99

Joy In The Midst Of Trails

Today’s Sunday Service was one of those when the Word of God that was preached and hymn sung hits me like…I don’t have the words of it. But what I have is the living hope that Christ has secured my salvation. According to God’s great mercy. By his great power. For my joy. And for God’s glory. Hallelujah!

Because the past resurrection happened
Our future is secure
Therefore, our present is joy.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy,
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is
imperishable,
undefiled, and
unfading,
kept in heaven for you,
who by God’s power are being guarded
through faith
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice,
though now for a little while, if necessary,
you have been grieved by various trials,
so that the tested genuineness of your faith
—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though you have not seen him, you love him.
Though you do not now see him, you believe in him
and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible
and filled with glory,
obtaining the outcome of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1:3–9, ESV)

The Preeminence of Revelation

From the definition of Theology as the science concerning God follows the necessity of its being based on revelation. In scientifically dealing with impersonal objects we ourselves take the first step; they are passive, we are active; we handle them, examine them, experiment with them.

But in regard to a spiritual, personal being this is different. Only in so far as such a being chooses to open up itself can we come to know it. All spiritual life is by its very nature a hidden life, a life shut up in itself. Such a life we can know only through revelation. If this be true as between man and man, how much more must it be so as between God and man. The principle involved has been strikingly formulated by Paul: ‘For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? ‘ (I Cor. 2:11). The inward hidden content of God’s mind can become the possession of man only through voluntary disclosure on God’s part. God must come to us before we can go to Him. But God is not a personal spiritual being in general. He is a Being infinitely exalted above our highest conception.

Geerardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, p.3-4

What Does A Blessed Man Delight In?

Three questions from The Songs of Jesus by Timothy and Kathy Keller that will help fill in a blank journal when reading the Bible.

Adore – What did you learn about God for which you could praise or thank him?

Admit – What did you learn about yourself for which you could repent?

Aspire – What did you learn about life that you could aspire to, ask for, and act on?

So here’s my reflection on Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 (ESV)

1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Adore – Thank you God that you desire to bless the righteous and you know his ways. You are also a just God who punishes the way of the wicked.

Admit – I confess that I do not always delight in the law of the Lord and my heart and mind are often captured by other things.

Aspire – Please help me Father God to prosper in all I do-to be one who delights in you and your Word.

The Songs of Jesus includes a prayer with each devotional that helps with responding to God’s Word. Here’s the prayer for Psalm 1.

Prayer – Lord of the Word, don’t let me be seduced by the world- either naively going with the crowd or becoming a hardened cynic. Help me meditate on your Word to the point of delight. Give me stability and contentment regardless or the circumstances. How I need that! Amen.

The Messiah Was Coming

The very fact that so many people considered the Messiah’s coming more of a fairy tale than a future event was, in itself, a cause for repentance. It wasn’t just that God had promised to do it. It was that the reason he promised to do it was like an intimate promise between lovers. God’s promised Messiah as a merciful gift of love to a people in all their pain, brokenness, and struggle, and make everything new. They were desperate for this, and the proof of their desperation was perhaps most evident in the fact that they couldn’t bring themselves to live as though this promise was real.

Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

-Russ Ramsey, Behold the Lamb of God, p.4

This beautiful Advent narrative is currently free on kindle. The above is why you need to download it.
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Spiritual “Riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer

Luther suggests that after meditation on the Scripture, you should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalising each one using your own needs and concerns.

The value of this exercise is manifold. It addresses one of the great practical difficulties of prayer-distracting thoughts…The exercise of elaborating on the Lord’s Prayer commands the full mental faculty, and this helps greatly with the problem of giving God full attention.

Praying the Great Prayer forces us to use all the full language and basic forms of prayer…Praying the Lord’s Prayer forces us to look for things to thank and praise God for in our dark times, and it presses us to repent and seek forgiveness during times of prosperity and success. It disciplines us to bring every part of our lives to God.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer…brings boldness and comfort, and, of course, warms up the heart to slide right into the most passionate prayer for our most urgent concerns.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 93 – 94.

The Fault In Our Hearts

Augustine’s first principle is that before you know what to pray for and how to pray for it, you must become a particular kind of person. “You must account yourself ‘desolate’ in this world…”

We must see that our heart’s loves are “disordered,” out of order. Things we ought to love third or fourth are first in our hearts. God, whom we should love supremely, is someone we may acknowledge but whose favour and presence is not existentially as important to us as prosperity, success, status, love, and pleasure.

Unless at the very least we recognise this heart disorder and realise how much it distorts our lives, our prayers will be part of the problem, not an agent of our healing…It won’t heal our hearts by reorienting our vision and helping us put things in perspective and bringing us to rest in God as our true security.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 84 – 85.

What I’ve Read (Learnt) About Prayer So Far

It’s so helpful when the author provides a summary.

Prayer is the continuation of a conversation that God has started. He started it when he implanted knowledge of himself in every human being, when he spoke through the prophets and in his written Word, and especially when he called us to himself through the Holy Spirit sent into our hearts…The character of prayer is determined by the character of God we are reaching toward. The God to whom Christians pray is a triune God. We can pray because God is our loving Father, because Christ is our mediator giving us access to the throne of the universe, and because the Spirit himself indwells us.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 83.

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