Wednesday, February 28, 2007

THE MAJESTY OF GOD




To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).


The word ‘heavens’ in the first verse of Psalm 19 stands in the emphatic position, drawing our attention immediately upward to the creation of God. David, the shepherd and author of this testimony of praise was overcome with the majesty of the God of Abraham as his eyes focused on the works of His hand. The grandeur of God as revealed in the natural world is evident even to the heathen, “… because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20).

Many of us have had an experience similar to David’s, when on occasion we saw the beauty of the mountains, studied the remarkable world of animals and insects, or considered the vastness of space. As a little boy, I often peered into outer space with admiration and perplexity. Exactly what existed beyond the range of my vision? And when did it get there? I never doubted that God was the One who created it. Only “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). With the advance of technology in our day, it is now possible to see what I could not see as a child, let alone what the men of the Bible could see, who had only the naked eye.

I have to wonder what David would exclaim if he could see some of the hundreds of thousands of remarkable space photos taken by the Hubble telescope since its launch in 1990. What would Sir Isaac Newton think were he alive today? According to many, Newton (1643-1727) had no equals in the history of science. A sketch of his life was presented in a Christian History Institute publication. The author described Newton in this way: “Among the greatest scientific geniuses of all times, Isaac Newton made major contributions to mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. He discovered the law of gravitation, formulated the basic laws of motion, developed calculus, and analyzed the nature of white light. Behind all his science was the conviction that God made the universe with a mathematical structure and He gifted human beings' minds to understand that structure. The very orderliness and design of the universe spoke of God's awesome majesty and wisdom.” 1 A fool denies the existence of God; Newton denied that anything could come into existence apart from God. He also understood that the greatness and power of God is beyond our comprehension. He said, "I must confess to a feeling of profound humility in the presence of a universe which transcends us at almost every point. I feel like a child who while playing by the seashore has found a few brightly colored shells and a few pebbles while the whole vast ocean of truth stretches out almost untouched and unruffled before my eager fingers." Amen to that! “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). "He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding" (Jeremiah 51:15). Certainly the God who can do such things and so much more must be the only object of our worship and praise.

I find it no surprise that Psalm 19 was addressed “to the Chief Musician”. Another hymn writer, Isaac Watts, composed, “The Heavens Declare Thy Glory.” The first stanza begins with the words, “The heavens declare thy glory, Lord; in every star thy wisdom shines.” Truly the wisdom of God does shine forth in all His glorious creation. As he contemplated the heavens above, Watts was led to bow to the ground and worship the Creator, just as David boasted of God in Psalm 19. Should we not be moved to praise God when we see the glory of His creation? Dr. Arthur Harding, in his textbook on astronomy, asked: “Who can study the science of astronomy and contemplate the star-lit heavens with a knowledge of the dimensions of the celestial bodies, their movements and their enormous distances, without bowing his head in reverence to the power that brought this universe into being and safely guides its individual members?” 2

The apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Since I became a new man in Christ Jesus by trusting His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 15:3), I too have matured in my understanding of God’s majesty. I now know more fully, although still in part, that He is the Sovereign Lord of the heavens and the earth who alone is worthy of my deepest devotion, my unceasing thanks, and the consecration of my life for His glory and that of Christ, who brought all things into existence and redeemed my soul (1 Peter 1:18). Colossians 1:12-17 states: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Brethren, never give in to fear, worry, or doubt. God has all things under control. He will safely guide us to our eternal home. The next time you look skyward, remember the all-wise and loving God who brought forth the heavenly bodies and sustains them from day to day. Catch a greater glimpse of His glory, and earthly concerns will not seem so daunting!

Worship His Majesty,


Pastor Tom

1 Christian History Institute, Glimpses #69
2 Harding, Arthur M., Astronomy [New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 1940], p.386

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

WHAT IS TRUTH?



People from all walks of life in every age have wrestled with the notion of truth. When Jesus was brought before Pilate he declared, “every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). Pilate responded in the next verse with the question, “what is truth?” Was Pilate seeking knowledge from Jesus, or ridiculing the very idea that it is possible to know truth in an absolute sense? The latter thought is the philosophy of the postmodern culture in which we live. Some estimates put these skeptics as high as 70% of the population. In the book, “The Death of Truth”, Dennis Mc Callum wrote: “Postmodernism isn’t a distinct set of doctrines or truth claims. It’s a mood – a view of the world characterized by a deep distrust of reason, not to mention a disdain for the knowledge Christians believe the Bible provides”. A postmodern thinker denies the very possibility of knowing spiritual or moral truth. This is the one thing he is absolutely sure about. Relativism rules the day. But spiritual truth is the one thing most needful in every age and believe it or not, it has its source in God: “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:4). Little wonder the Bible given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16) has been under constant attack by Satan who is the father of lies. We are in a great battle for truth and sometimes it gets discouraging. May I encourage you not to give up and retreat from the fight. It is not our responsibility to prove to any man that God’s Word is true, we must simply preach it with confidence in the person and power of the Holy Spirit to do His work in the hearts of those who hear. Yes, there is a place for apologetics in the life of the Christian. We should not be ignorant of what we believe and why we believe it, but always remember that it is the Holy Scripture that brings life to a faithless heart: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (James 1:18). “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The challenge to Christians in this age of unbelief is to hide God’s Word in your heart and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Peter 3:15). Think about your salvation testimony. How did you come to faith in Christ? Your path to salvation may differ from other believers, but the one common factor is this - someone shared God’s Word with you and just as Jesus promised, “the truth set you free” (John 8:32). Not the truth of psychology or philosophy, the truth of the gospel which revealed your sinful condition (Romans 3:23) and God’s gracious provision for forgiveness in the death of His Son (John 5:24; Romans 5:8). It is the Scripture alone which is “able to make one wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Returning to Pilate’s ‘truth encounter’ we find that Jesus never responded to his statement, “what is truth?” After Pilate uttered those words he went out again to the Jews and delivered Jesus to be crucified (John 18:38-19:6) . How sad to think that he did not realize that “the truth” was literally standing right in front of his eyes in the person of Christ. Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Moreover, He had come to reveal the truth to mankind. He was “the Word made flesh” (John 1:1), the very one who embodied “grace and truth” (John 1:17). Pilate never embraced the truth and consequently he turned away from “the grace of God that bringeth salvation” (Titus 2:11). He missed the only way to heaven and eternal life. Many like Pilate will do the same. “Let us not grow weary in well doing (2 Thessalonians 3:13)”. The way of destruction may be broad (Matthew 7:13) but some will rejoice in the truth and enter the narrow gate to eternal life (Matthew 7:14). God’s Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). So, onward Christian soldiers! We do have a distinct set of truth claims, a doctrine to declare, a gospel to proclaim that is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Be valiant for the truth.

Trusting in the Lord!

Pastor Tom

Monday, February 12, 2007

TUNING THE CHURCH PIANOS



In our church we appreciate good music. However, good singing can be undermined by a piano that is out of tune, so as a rule we have our Kwai Baby Grand tuned twice a year. I have since discovered that two tunings a year may not be sufficient. William White, piano technician wrote, "If a piano is neglected, if it be allowed to go through from one season to another, say, from Spring to Winter, without tuning, it will probably at the end of that time be considerably lower in pitch. It will have gone through a rise, followed by a fall, and the fall will be greater than the first rise.” Admittedly I know very little about the art of tuning a piano, but I do understand that “a fall which exceeds a previous rise can’t be good”. I also know from a strict scientific standpoint that there is no such thing as a “perfectly tuned piano”. The constant temperature and barometric changes as well as the relative humidity in a room will always affect the pitch of a piano to some degree. We must live with the reality that our church piano will always sound “less than perfect”. This is not a big problem. I am very content with our Kwai. It makes beautiful music. There is however something else on the subject of ‘being in tune’ that is of spiritual importance to God’s people. How can a body of believers assembled together for worship make a beautiful sound to the ears of the risen Savior if they are “out of tune”? Not musically out of tune, but spiritually out of tune with each other. I am of course speaking about a lack of unity in the local church. The church at Ephesus was commanded to “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Bear in mind that unity was something they possessed on the basis of their common salvation. The struggle was to maintain on a functional level what they possessed on a positional level in Christ who drew them together as members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19) . Just as there are many factors at work that interfere with the harmony of strings on a musical instrument, there are many factors working to destroy the harmony and peace of a Christian congregation. Chief among them is the great enemy of all godly endeavors, Satan, who knows that visible Christian unity glorifies God. Therefore, we should not be surprised that he will utilize every tool and trick at his disposal to create strife and division in the church. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle that knows no respite even when we come together as believers. This is why Paul prayed in Romans 15:5-6: “ Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". Brethren, there is no formula that will guarantee our being of “one mind”, but the Bible does point us to the source of godly unity. The source is the Holy Spirit working in each and every believer (Ephesians 4:3; Ephesians 5:18-21) to glorify Christ as Jesus said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: (John 16:13-14). The Spirit glorifies Christ most by conforming each believer to His image. In this process corporate unity is achieved. A.W. Tozer employed the analogy of piano tuning to describe how it works. He said, “If a hundred pianos were merely tuned to each other, their pitch would not be very accurate. But if they were all tuned to one tuning fork, they would automatically be tuned to each other". Similarly, unity in the church isn't trying to be the same as everyone else. It is not uniformity! We are individuals with different personalities, strength, weaknesses, preferences, gifts, etc. In short, we a group of many different pianos. Without abandoning our “unity on the essentials of our faith” we can retain our individuality and still be joined together in a way that will please and glorify God by becoming like Jesus Christ. We must all be, “ tuned to His likeness”. When all is said and done it is not “my way” or “your way” that matters, it is “His way”. Jesus having “His way” in all of our hearts is the key to church unity and unity in our homes.

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
Our God will reign forever and ever!
Pastor Tom