Worshiping on the Outskirts

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

(Romans 12:12 ESV)

The center here stands out in these times: “be patient in tribulation” and informs the rest. The word “patience” is specifically a ‘bearing up under circumstances’ as opposed to ‘bearing up under people’.  The word “tribulation” means ‘to crush, press, compress, squeeze’ and is related to a word that speaks of distress, narrowness of room or confined space (NT Word Study Dictionary).  We are certainly in a time that may be termed “tribulation” and it calls certainly for “patience.” 

It seems the outside items inform the center of this verse. “Rejoice in hope” refers to Christ’s return and our ultimate redemption (MacArthur Study Bible). The construction of this phrase speaks specifically to “that in or over which one rejoices” (NT Word Study Dictionary), meaning  that “hope” is the cause of one’s joy. 

The word “prayer” can speak of ‘a place of prayer’ which was usually located on the outskirts of towns where Jews were unable to have a synagogue, usually near a river or seaside for convenience (NT Word Study Dictionary). The word “constant” refer to staying close to someone and is metamorphic here of steadfastness or faithfulness “in the outgoings of the Christian life, especially in prayer” (NT Word Study Dictionary).

Bringing it together…

We are certainly in a time that demands patience in the circumstances. From Romans 12:12 we may learn that our view of the future glory of the Lord filling the earth and our regular resorting to the house of God in a figurative sense at this time are instrumental to this patience demanded. As we look at God’s promises (Psalm 110) and regularly connect with each other in worship through unusual means at this time (on the outskirts if you will), we can be using these instruments to promote the patience in tribulation that is called for here. That is my take on it, my meditation this morning over the text. I find it useful and hope you will carry with you Romans 12:12 and think over it as well.


Gaining in Another Place: The Church as a Sea as Product of Christ’s Third Step in Exaltation

There were several steps to Christ’s exaltation including:

  1. His rising
  2. His ascending 
  3. His sitting
  4. His judging

Concerning his rising we think upon greatly this Easter week. Considering his ascending, sitting, and judging we meditate all life long. Not that we forget his rising, but they blossom in though to all the rest. He rose for our justification so the the beginning of his exaltation is also the end of ours, that we are already judged in Christ and therefore promised to be glorified together with him.

Now, today I read something on the sitting of our Lord. There are two very important Scriptures that come to play in Christ having sat down at the right hand of the Father. First, Psalm 110 as a whole. And second, 1 Corinthians 15:25.

“A Psalm of David. The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” (Psalm 110:1–7)

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25)

So, we may take heard in these days that Christ is in his heavenly session or rule now. John Flavel says it well:

“He was born in a stable, but now he reigns in his royal palace. Then he had a manger for his cradle, but now he sits on a chair of state. Then oxen and asses were his companions, now thousands of saints, and ten thousands of angels minister round about his throne. Then in contempt, they called him the Carpenter’s son, now he obtains a more excellent name than angels. Then he was led away into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, now it is proclaimed before him, “let all the angels of God worship him.” Then he had not a place to lay his head on, now he is exalted to be heir of all things….Then “he had no form or comeliness; and when we saw him, there was no beauty why we should desire him:” now the beauty of his countenance shall send forth such glorious beams’ s shall dazzle the eyes of all the celestial inhabitants round about this…O what a change is this! Here he sweated, but there he sits. Here he groaned, but there he triumphs. Here he lay upon the ground, there he sits in the throne of glory” (John Flavel, Works Vol 1, “The Fountain of Life” Sermon 51).

In Christ Jesus enthroned in heaven we may be assured according to Flavel that “Heaven overlooks hell” and “with the church, as it is with the sea: what it loses in one place, it gets it another; and so really loses nothing” (Ibid., p.521).

So, we may take heart, that the church loses nothing in these days that Christ presently rules. The church has at the present time lost its face to face fellowship but has gained it in another place, perhaps more glorious as the whole world is hearing the gospel. So, that perhaps if God mercifully allows our return to face to face fellowship, we may return with more faces. So, there is not a circumstance where the church really loses “nothing” for as Flavel rightly says, “as it is with the sea, what it loses in one place, it gets in another.” Why? Because Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25) and because God must make the enemies of Christ his footstool (Psalm 110:1). 

The exaltation of Our Lord has in it the hope of a sea that really ever loses nothing. The church will always gain in another place. For the church is like the sea, and is necessarily a product of the heavenly multiplication of Christ’s third step of exaltation. 

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:3)

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)


A Mighty Fortress in the Plague

I recently discovered that Luther wrote his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in the midst of the black plague on Psalm 46, not at the start of the reformation. Steven Lawson records:

“By 1527, Luther showed signs of becoming weary in the battle for truth. He was stricken by tightness in his chest, dizziness, and fainting spells. He experienced weakness so severe that he feared he was about to die. Luther lamented: “I spent more than a week in death and in hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation.”41 Compounding his weakness, the Black Plague swept through Germany. Many fled, but Luther chose to remain in Wittenberg and opened his home as a hospital. Amid the crisis, he almost lost his young son to death. At this soul-crushing time, he wrote his most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” based on Psalm 46. God is “a bulwark never failing,” he wrote, whose “kingdom is forever.” Without doubt, God was the inexhaustible source of Luther’s strength.”

(from the Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther)

“To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”

(Psalm 46:1–11 ESV)

Book Recommendation: Seerveld’s Treatment of Song of Songs

Calvin G. Seerveld’s Never Try to Arouse Erotic Love Until… is the best treatment of the Song of Solomon that makes sense of the whole of biblical redemptive history. I’ve always questioned how Song of Songs (as it is called) would be a positive treatment of Solomon having a single-hearted love. It is possible his first Egyption wife was the character, certainly, but it is more likely that it is as Seerveld explains: A critique of Solomon.

So, Seerveld’s Never Try to Arouse Erotic Love Until… helps. Furthermore, his expertise in the language helps solidify the theory by showing that there are clearly different voices in the Song of Songs. The evidence is overwhelming in that respect, and if I ever get chance to teach on it, I plan to quickly pick up Seerveld on the topic.

I commend this book to you who are wanting to learn the book for preaching and teaching, but also to young people who want to know what love should be like and what it never should be like. The drama also has potential to minister to the sexually abused and forsaken, the divorced, the single, and others. Pick up and read! 


The Shield of St. Patrick

“The Shield of St. Patrick

Attributed to St. Patrick

Paraphrased by Cecil Frances Alexander

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever by power of faith Christ’s incarnation,

his baptism in the Jordan river, his death on the cross for my salvation;

his bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way,

his coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken to my need,

the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward,

the Word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me;

Christ to comfort and restore me;

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three,

of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word;

praise to the God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!”


Essentials for Spiritual Building

Today’s sermon audio brought to you by

Sermon “Essentials Components for Spiritual Building in a Complicated World” from 1 Kings 5:1–18 by Brian Mann

Poor Sinner Dejected With Fear

  1. Poor sinner, dejected with fear,
    Unbosom thy mind to the Lamb;
    No wrath on His brow He does wear,
    Nor will He poor mourners condemn;
    His arm of omnipotent grace
    Is able and willing to save;
    A sweet and a permanent peace
    He’ll freely and faithfully give.
  2. Come just as thou art, with thy woe,
    Fall down at the feet of the Lamb;
    He will not, He cannot say, “Go”,
    But surely will take out thy stain
    A fountain is opened for sin,
    And thousands its virtues have proved
    He’ll take thee, and plunge thee therein,
    And wash thee from filth in His blood.
  3. The soul that on Jesus relies,
    He’ll never, no never deceive;
    He freely and faithfully gives
    More blessings than we can conceive;
    Yea, down to old age He will keep,
    Nor will He forsake us at last;
    He knows and is known by His sheep;
    They’re His, and He will hold them fast.

Thoughts on Revival Coming from Only From Above

I was reading some on revival this evening, when this thought hit me so powerfully concerning the irresistible grace of God.

If the Spirit does not overcome you irresistibly you don’t know the Spirit of God, you simply have come on your own, and that is contrary to Jesus’ words “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). The very word “draw” can be translated to “drag” like in Acts 21:30 where the apostle was dragged in before the magistrates. So, the Lord in his love does draw us to himself, or we do not come to Christ. There is no such thing as coming to Christ on one’s own.

This above thought is further supported as there was such a contrast noted by Dr. Murray in his book on Pentecost Today concerning a time when the new school of people in Finney’s day taught a form of revival that was worked up as opposed to the old school view that revival was prayed down.


A Solid & Sure Hope

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by John Piper called “Gentiles Rejoice in the Root of Jesse” preached on Dec. 11, 2005

“we hope for the new heavens and new earth. Romans 8:20–21, “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope[!]21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Someday the creation will no longer be plagued by earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and the threat of flu pandemics.

The verses in Isaiah 11 (6–9) immediately preceding the one Paul quotes in verse Romans 15:12 say:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Because of Christ our hope for that day is solid and sure.”

The Process Whereby Affliction is Transformed in the Believer Into Hope

The Process Whereby Affliction is Transformed in the Believer Into Hope

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

(Romans 5:3–5 ESV)

I take from an old commentary by Godet the title of this post: “The process whereby affliction becomes transformed in the believer into hope.” Additionally throughout his commentary was helpful to this meditation on the text.

The stage that is set is that of suffering. It is brought up after speaking of having peace with God as a result of justification by faith. The apostle then deals with the objection: What about suffering? Do we have peace then? That’s the idea.

The apostle argues: yes. We know this joyfully speaking because the process is as follows:

First, suffering gives rise to endurance or constancy. The word “endurance” speaks of staying, or bearing up under a burden, blows, etc. 

Second, the constancy gives rise to character or better put “approval.” The word speaks of being  a proved Christian, one who has shown what he is. “The faith of the believer has held good in suffering, has shown itself real and effective, the gold which has come forth purified from the furnace” (Godet).

Third, this proven-ness now gives rise to hope. Constancy rises out of Suffering, Proven-ness rises out of Constancy; and lastly Hope rises out of Proven-ness. Nothing which happens to the believer now frightens him because of the hope that has been “rendered brighter by sufferings” (Ibid.) which has its source in the revelation of God and His love. And note that the source of that which has given a resurrection to endurance, character, and hope is that of the perfect love of God, not our love for him. 

The words “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” are in the perfect, meaning out of God’s heart his love has come and it has not been withdrawn (Ibid.). The whole resulting state of the process producing endurance, character, and hope “leaves a permanent impression of the love which God has” for us (Ibid.). This came about when “heaven was opened to the believer, and the objective and perfectly real character of this inward revelation” was actually experienced on the basis of the objective fact of what Christ has done for us (cf. Romans 5:6–11). Thus the ultimate cause for the resurrection of endurance, approval, and hope is that of the cross of Jesus Christ. What power!